What appeared to be Afghan Whigs’ swan song – 1965 – was released in 1998 and close to perfection. Gentler than Gentlemen, their 1993 breakthrough, the last
studio album from the Cincinnati quartet was dark, tender, furious, funny and sad. I listened to my copy until it broke.
It’s difficult to re-catch such a wave. The Whigs,
a largely 90s alt.rock outfit, split in 2001 – citing, among other things, family obligations – by which time front-man Greg Dulli had already released his first album with new project the Twilight Singers. On Do To The Beast, their comeback album that follows a series of shows and one-off singles, it’s business as usual, despite the 16-year gap: “You know me by now,” Dulli sings on Lost In The Woods. There’s still the old restlessness and vice: three of the songs – Matamoros, Can Rova and Algiers – take their names from exotic locations. In Algiers, arguably the album’s best song, the insomniac narrator roams the backstreets: “Dream, dream your sins away/Sin your dreams away.” (It’s no surprise to learn Dulli is a lapsed Catholic.) But perhaps, after such a hiatus, one might expect fresh rather than familiar ground.
At just 10 songs Do To
The Beast is concise and enjoyable, but doesn’t have the cohesive energy and poetry of its predecessor.
If you’re a Whigs fan, you’ve already pre-ordered it. If you’re not, maybe start with 1965.