Arabian Heights – The Afghan Whigs

It’s sort of dark and techno-y at the start. Like that period just before the millennium when bands wanted to prove that they’d ‘always had a dance element to their music’ by playing their guitars tuned to The Fly and giving their drummer concerns for his job security.

So I’m starting a season like 70’s Punk Covers Week or Songs About Songs Week. This one is ‘Pre-millennial Tension Week’ no hang on it can’t be that. This Whigs album is from 2017. OK we’ll call it ‘In the Shadow of Zooropa week’. But do I think U2 really influenced Afghan Whigs over a 25 year period since their own directional change? No. I really don’t.

OK, Wait. Let’s say this week it’s… A bunch of songs by bands famous for a big rock sound who suddenly start squelching and banging along with 808’s to sound relevant. But we can’t call it that so… BOSBBFFABRSWSSSABAW808TSR Week it is!

This Afghan Whigs record is immense. There’s no dulling of their mettle in the time passed since their 90’s heyday. Where the 1998 album 1965 (stay with me here) went rootsy and (1993’s) Gentlemen had that louche sleaze to it, Arabian Heights from In Spades (2017) comes jaded and a little pre-roughed up.

‘Get around it love, don’t let them know what you know’

Like a second hand sales reps car it may have had all the extras fitted when it left the factory but it’s all worn in now and that means it has found it’s own way of running along.

Greg Dulli’s voice has aged magnificently. He sounds like a journeyman who is still deep in country. The relentless bass and choppy guitar FX add some serious dark space to the atmosphere and those clattering semi false drums add danger to every element of the song.

‘Hypnotize, synthesize, love is a lie like a hole in the sky, then you die’

There’s a soaring second guitar melody which flirts with The Smiths How Soon Is Now and some elements of Nine Inch Nails before settling for something between The Happy Monday’s playing Numetal and Jimi Hendrix impersonating a helicopter live at Woodstock.

The whole thing winds down dismantling itself like a broken Autobot putting itself back into a used car lot and then it’s gone. You’re left thinking ‘How are new bands ever going to compete with that?’

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4 thoughts on “Arabian Heights – The Afghan Whigs

  1. Great pick, Steve; one of my favourite tracks from In Spades (one of my favourite tracks from last year, too). I love the guitars on here… when the Whigs soar, the soar.

    The last two albums are just brilliant… I missed Rick, but Rosser added something a wee bit different and, well, the sparring is still there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I gave this one a re-listen this weekend and came back to re-read this afterward. I thought it was funny the first time I read it, but now I can appreciate its authenticity as well – makes me giggle even more because it’s true!

    Liked by 1 person

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