A few years ago in a Playboy interview, Keith Richards waxed nostalgic for good old rock n’ roll. The gist of his complaint was that there are too few bands who can both rock (i.e. play kick ass rock music) and roll (i.e. put forward a good slow burning groove). It appears Mr. Richards was, and most likely remains, uninformed about the Afghan Whigs. On 1965, their fifth long-player (named after the year their singer, Greg Dulli, was born), they demonstrate all those years of listening to Stax and Motown singles did not go to waste. Once again they treat us to music that is both “ass-shakin” and intelligent.
Although long-time fans may be disappointed by Mr. Dulli’s abandonment of self-flagellation, the tangible thread of darkness of earlier works remains on this disc. However, it is retained in a markedly different form. Instead of the guilt and revenge of their latest two discs (Gentlemen and Black Love), there is a whole-hearted embrace of lust and abandonment to sex. When Dulli croons at the end of “John the Baptist,” “I’ve got the devil in me,” we all know what is coming next.
The change in the emotional landscape is not the only surprise on this disc. The musicianship remains as solid as ever, and the Whigs have learned the lesson of understatement and power. Loudness no longer equals lust or desire; instead there is muted understatement to much of the singing and music. The addition of horns and keyboards also adds texture. In the end, though, the core of Dulli, guitarist Rick McCollum, and bassist John Curley once again demonstrates that they are one of the tightest units in music today. This is truly a must-have album. In the words of Dulli to an English journalist, “You show me a record that sounds more rock n’ roll, and I’ll suck your dick in Leicester Square, man!” http://www.afghanwhigs.com Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., 26th Floor, New York, NY 10022