Many thought that it was well and truly the end of the line when Greg Dulli, John Curley, Rick McCollum and drummer Steve Earle went their separate ways in 2001. Their dark and mysterious chemistry felt like it had probably run its natural course yet they went out on the back of their three finest albums. It was therefore a surprise to many when The Afghan Whigs officially reformed for live shows in 2012 (minus Earle) and better still, recorded a new album (without guitarist McCollum).
Do To The Beast ticks all the boxes that define and form the drama-laden soul-rock of the band’s sound. There are the swelling, chest-beating choruses that read like emotional exorcism, the mix of the poetic and brutally confessional in Dulli’s lyrics and the blending of musical styles that for most bands wouldn’t work but here, in most cases, they make perfect symbiotic sense. The first single ‘Algiers’ is in some ways a red herring to the sonic personality of the album. It combines mariachi and a gothic-laden vibe showcasing Dulli’s masterful voice, in particular his sweet serenade of a falsetto. It’s a canyon-wide contrast to the chugging power-chord bombast of album opener ‘Parked Outside’ and even more so the cyber, pseudo rock rap of ‘Matamoros’ – a song only saved by a Dulli special of a chorus. Those early missteps are outweighed by the much more natural swing and swagger of ‘Lost in the Woods’ and ‘The Lottery’ as well as the beautiful hypnotic quality of ‘Can Rova’ and the album’s other more restrained songs.
The Afghan Whigs have managed to successfully retain the classic qualities that made them such a unique band in the musical climate of the 90s while producing a record that sounds utterly contemporary, a ‘modern rock’ album in the truest sense that embraces technology and subtle influences from r&b and electronica. From all discernible angles Dulli has honoured and enriched the band’s legacy with integrity and primal grace.
this review was first published on FasterLouder