The Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast

by Ethan Ranis Rating:6.5 Release Date:2014-04-15

Of all the recent 90s revival acts, The Afghan Whigs' reunion seemed one of the more unlikely. Lead singer Greg Dulli had repeatedly disavowed any chance of the band getting back together, and the band was well past its breakthrough moment, 1993's Gentlemen. Yet a string of tour dates in 2012 were surprisingly successful The band recaptured some of that dark manic energy which powered their best songs on stage.

Unfortunately, their new studio album, Do to the Beast, doesn't get at that same magic. Between the heavy, alt-rock production and the frequent use of off-kilter, Middle Eastern-ish strings, this sounds a bit like a 90s-style Ocean Rain, minus the strong songwriting. 

Most of these songs lack memorable hooks or choruses. Propulsive rhythms abound, but there's a reason Dulli's vocals are frequently buried in the mix: lyrically, there's almost nothing there, beyond generic sentiments like "You're gonna make me break down and cry", and "It kills to watch you in love with another."

The album is also marred by some questionable choices, including Dulli's decision to sing much of the album in his higher register, which sounds fragile but also comes off strangely Peter Gabriel-esque in its more placid moments. Some of the arrangements are bizarre, as when 'Can Rova's ballad tempo and reflective mood is suddenly interrupted by a ravey 808 beat.

The album isn't without its high points. 'Lost in the Woods' begins steeped in gloomy piano but lets sunlight and contrast in during the choruses. 'The Lottery' suitably rocks, though its pinging guitar lines sound perhaps a bit too much like U2. 

'Royal Cream' has an almost danceable bassline that's accelerated to hurtling tempos. The tribal drums on closing couplet 'I Am Fire' and 'These Sticks' add drama in ways the weeping string arrangements sometimes fail to achieve, though the latter's brass section sounds a bit cheesy.

Overall, however, this album fails to cohere in the ways The Afghan Whigs' best works did. It's a bit too muddled and indistinct, and it's victim to too many stabs at experimentation which don't quite work. There's nothing here which will ruin the band's legacy, but sometimes it's best to let the past rest.

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