Afghan Whigs – In Spades

Released: 2nd May 2017

One of the greatest things about Cincinnati’s Afghan Whigs has always been their refusal to tether their sound to one style. Unified by Greg Dulli’s voice, the group have worked through alternative and classic rock, soul, R’n’B and funk across their career; and were no more easily categorisable when they reunited a few years ago and released Do To The Beast in 2014.

Their latest album In Spades, at 36 minutes is their shortest ever, and takes its cues from almost every corner of the Whigs’ career, never standing still when it can take its listener on a surprising detour. Copernicus could be a sterling single from the band’s grunge days, its grinding verses dissolving into a tender, anthemic chorus, before Dulli looks to the sky and sings of “apocalypse in thrall”. The similarly ferocious Arabian Heights mixes drum loops with a droning funk bassline and falsetto vocals, before Dulli stretches his vocals to the limit and the song transforms into a bombastic, glammy stomp.

This being the Whigs, though, some of the highlights on In Spades are the hushed moments, such as Oriole’s acoustic guitar and vaguely North African strings, or the see-sawing classic-rock piano ballad I Got Lost.

Few of the band’s classic lineup are present, but in truth that matters little, as Dulli has always been the heart and soul of the Whigs. This semi-concept album about “how quickly life and memory can blur together” is one of his finest achievements, a compact album that takes in a host of influences without losing its indefinable essence. “Playing music is a gift,” Dulli told BBC 6 Music last month, “and it’s a gift that I’ve been lucky to have for half my life.” Surely we’re the lucky ones.

Tom Pinnock

afghan whigs

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