The Afghan Whigs - In Spades - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Afghan Whigs - In Spades

by James Weiskittel Rating:10 Release Date:2017-05-05

By the time the Afghan Whigs had released their brilliant fourth album Congregation some twenty-five years ago, the band had already cemented their Punk-Rock ethos and Indie credibility.  That record, however, found the Cincinnati, OH-based band embracing an entirely new take on their guitar-rock approach.  By combining elements of Soul and Funk with a sexually-charged lyrical perspective, the band immediately sounded like no one else in the Alterna-Rock ranks.  And as this formula was refined (while the band flirted with mainstream success) over the course of their next two releases (the brilliantly manic Gentlemen and their opus Black Love), it wasn’t until the tumultuous sessions that would ultimately forge 1965 that the cracks finally began to show.  It was at that point that Dulli made the decision to retire the name and move on to other projects.

Fast forward a decade or so, and on the heels of a successful tour following 2014’s unheralded (yet absolutely brilliant nonetheless) Do To The Beast, the band decided to give it another go.  In Spades, the band’s eighth album overall, finds Dulli and Co. putting forth what is perhaps their most ambitious record to date, an uncompromising collection of songs that reveals an entirely new side of the band. 

Not unlike Do To The Beast before it, the variety and scope of In Spades was undoubtedly inspired by Dulli’s post-breakup efforts (The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, etc.) which saw the singer expanding far beyond the realm of mere guitar-driven Rock.  This record is a perfect amalgamation of both phases of Dulli’s career, exuding a more refined, reflective stance on the band’s otherwise decadent tone.  

Where most Afghan Whigs albums tend to open with a bang, In Spades is a slow reveal, beginning with the understated “Birdland”, a haunting number that features a contemplative Dulli howling over a bed of staccato strings. The drum-heavy groove of “Arabian Heights” segues perfectly into the album’s first single, the piano-driven “Demon In Profile”, a brilliant example of how this band can so effortlessly contain the feel of an ‘epic’ song within a four to five-minute running time.  As the record unravels, songs like the atmospheric “Toy Automatic” and the percussion-heavy “The Spell” demonstrate the Afghan Whigs ever-impressive ability to generate drive and momentum without relying solely on guitar-centric heroics.

That isn’t to say that In Spades doesn't rock, because tracks like “Copernicus” and “Light As A Feather” could easily fit on any of the band’s seminal 90’s release, it’s just that the band leans even heavier on swagger and grind this time around, all but abandoning the paint-by-numbers riff-Rock approach that would probably have just as easily pleased long-time fans...(and trust me, we are all better off for it). The album comes to a brilliant close with the somber “I Got Lost” and the appropriately grand “Into The Floor”, summing up what is perhaps the Afghan Whigs most cohesive musical statement since Black love.  

As with most Afghan Whigs records, the production here is spot on; lush and nuanced without ever feeling overworked or labored.  There are generous bursts of horns and strings augmenting nearly every track, adding both a sense of swing to the upbeat numbers as well as depth to the quieter moments.  The word “spooky” has been tossed around recently by Dulli in reference to this record, and it’s an apt description as In Spades loosely adheres to an overall theme, with one song after another seeming to revel in the cold reality of mortality.

In Spades succeeds on all fronts, easily stacking up to any of the band’s past releases.  What is perhaps this record’s greatest achievement, however, is the way that it completely takes the sound of this legendary band into a confident new direction; one where songs serve a greater narrative, defined and tethered by Dulli’s reflective lyrics. It’s a fresh and inspired take that is sure to leave fans clamoring for what the Whigs are going to do next...rare air for any band eight albums in.  Well done boys.


Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles