16 years since an album release from The Afghan Whigs and then BOOM, SXSW performance with none other than Usher (yes, Usher) and the announcement of a new album that we now know to be Do To The Beast. This was an unexpected turn of events to say the least, after a brief reuniting for a tour in 2012, lead singer Greg Dulli remembers thinking it was all over; “I assumed we were done, we completed the cycle”. A night on stage with Usher was apparently just the ticket to make them realise they had more to give as a band, and Dulli unleashed all the song ideas he had stashed away as intrinsically ‘Whig’ songs.
Missing their original guitarist, Rick McCollum, they enlisted the help of some friends like Alain Johannes, of Queens of The Stone age and Arctic Monkeys to name a few, and then there’s Dave Catching, also heavily associated with QOTSA and Eagles of Death Metal. The army of guitar heroes that they have rallied up has certainly added new dimensions to the band’s robust new music.
Absolute pioneers of collaborating both classic rock with soul and R&B, that’s right, The Afghan Whigs were doing it way before it was cool. The band described this as their most intense and cathartic piece of work yet and Dulli really does pour his heart into the lyrics. For ‘Lost in the Woods’, one of the most addictive of the tracks, he said that it resonated with him, reminded him of his childhood and he has seasoned the entire album with these personal homages that make it so potent. But enough of this soppy sentimental stuff and let’s get back to the rock and roll. ‘Metamoros’ is a good place to start, named after a Mexican town that was cursed by satanic murders, it’s proper dark and dirty rock music with smooth and sultry Dulli vocals on top, and it’s divine.
Not the first band to make a surprise comeback, not by a long shot, but one thing is special about The Afghan Whigs reuniting – It’s in no way a shotgun comeback. They aren’t getting shoved on stage, lacking the vigour they once showed, just to make a bit of extra cash before it’s too late. It’s clear that they had passion and ideas bursting out of them that had to be explored and I for one am glad Dulli opened the door to it.
It’s exciting to see an old band do something new and move forward, keeping the enthusiasm that they had years ago. Originally being so ahead of their time has meant that they are easily still relevant today and it’s an exceptional return to music.