The Afghan Whigs were something of a big deal back in the mid nineties. After signing a lucrative recording contract with Electra Records, they released the critical and commercial success that was Gentlemen, an album of noir-ish, epic guitar rock. Released in 1993, this was their moment; MTV sensed it, put them on heavy rotation and for a brief spell they appeared poised to break out of the indie ghetto and into the big leagues. Singer and songwriter Greg Dulli was the kind of front man who made good copy for the music magazines - his confessional, soulful lyrics ensured journalists arrived for interviews with an armful of questions and left with a string of quotable quotes.
They broke up in 2001 after a long and exhausting legal wrangle with their record label left Dulli drained and exhausted by the whole experience. Now they are back with the much anticipated Do To The Beast and fans of the band will be pleased to know that it is business as usual for the Whigs - this is a comeback album that doesn't tinker with the formula to any great degree. Opener 'Parked Outside' is a tasty reprise of the satisfyingly chunky guitars and semi sleazy howl that Dulli utilised to great effect on Gentlemen. Dulli still mulls over the same themes - sex, lust, death, infidelity and obsession - on songs like 'It Kills', he somehow manages to roll all these themes into one song. 'Algiers' kicks off with that classic Spector drum beat from 'Be My Baby' and grooves along nicely in a Pulp Fiction-ish kind of way. 'Lost In the Woods' and 'The Lottery' are classic examples of the Afghan Whigs sound - Dulli at his most darkly foreboding with the band nudging close to arena rock dynamics but never quite going all out.
It's been quite a wait since their last record - sixteen years is a long time by any standards but while Do To The Beast should satisfy existing devotees, it remains to be seen if there is enough here to lure new fans in. There is something quaintly nineties about their brand of guitar rock that seems somehow at odds with the current music scene. While Do To The Beast is a solid return, echoing some of the band's best work, it might just be one for committed fans only.
Review by Paul Page | THREE STARS