The Afghan Whigs: 1965

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Album: 1965
Label: Columbia
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Album: 1965
Label: Columbia

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The members of the venerable, hard-living, soulful Cincinnati rock band The Afghan Whigs haven't had an easy time in the past few years: After 1996's grotesquely underrated Black Love failed commercially and critically, the band lost its drummer, left its label, and endured a period of personal turmoil. After a much-needed sabbatical, the group returns with 1965, a lyrically direct record that's flavored with soulful back-up singers and occasional doses of strings, horns, acoustic guitars, loops, and handclaps. But rather than adding up to an overproduced, fussy whole, all those accouterments subtly complement arrangements that are kept hauntingly wide-open. Few bands can match The Afghan Whigs' ability to sound harrowing and hedonistic at the same time, and 1965 is packed with intense, moody, tragic-sounding songs about lust. Incomparable frontman Greg Dulli has always been obsessed with sex and soul, and both are well-represented here. From its seething, comparatively quiet second half to its killer crowd-pleasers (the soulful rave-up "Somethin' Hot," the vaguely Rod Stewart-esque "Uptown Again," the menacingly anthemic "Citi Soleil"), 1965 is another fine entry in a magnificent, sadly under-appreciated catalog.

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