Fountain And Fairfax – The Afghan Whigs

The slight presence of The Afghan Whigs on SteveForTheDeaf is a nonsense. They’re a band exceedingly close to my heart. A real dose of honest as dirt rock and roll that doesn’t go in for big rock cliches or the overt genre trappings from any particular aspect of the subba cultcha. They’re endebted to The Stones of course (who isn’t?) and there’s a fair bit of Bad Seeds, The Replacements and the smoking mysticism of Crazy Horse.

So I featured them back in the Clash Covers season and when their comeback album dropped a few years back (Arabian Heights is everything I said it was back then) but I’ve left their purple patch off the list until now. I’m fixing that immediately with as song that compares itself preferably to much of their best work, early R.E.M and Iron Maiden at the same time.

Yep. Early R.E.M and Iron Maiden, at the same time. Meet me down at Fountain and Fairfax and I’ll show what I mean. Taken from their 1993 Elektra era album Gentlemen, Fountain and Fairfax was a single during the bands second record labels attempt to break them into the big time. They’d already been on Sub-Pop and had some considerable traction with the albums Up In It, Congregation and Uptown Avondale. They’d not sold any records but all the right people were talking about how good they were. They’d worked with Jack Endino toured with Mudhoney and confused the audiences of grungers by keep doing stuff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Stax record or some Motown harmony group. All while being totally bad-ass rock and rollers.

With a move to Elektra and the release of Gentlemen they got their sound locked tight. The single Debonair and the title track from the album were getting radio play when the Teenage Fanclub tour saw them grow from support act to equals to ‘ones not to miss’ in the afternoon slots on festival stages. This is where I came in. I knew the singles. I saw them live in this era and was blown away by the song writing and that mix of sounds. There’s a track on Gentlemen called My Curse which is about domestic violence. It’s lyrics are so affecting, lead Whig Greg Dulli couldn’t bring himself to sing it on the album. So he got the lead singer Marcy Mays of the band Scrawl to step into his winkle pickers and handle the vocal to devastating effect.

I’ve chosen Fountain and Fairfax though because of that guitar line. It feels kinda Powerslavey to me. The lyric like Paul Westerberg stepping in for Mikey Stipe. It soars and it swoons and it works the room to intoxicating effect. From there they’d go onto record the immaculate Black Love then the space time tampering 1969 from 1998 in all it’s perfect glory.

We’ll get there, in good time. For now though. Listen to the slow picked notes and the soulful confessional from a thousand years ago…

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5 thoughts on “Fountain And Fairfax – The Afghan Whigs

  1. I popped into Sounds of the Suburbs (my local record shop) on Friday, when I go into there I do not know what I am going to come out with. Well to my surprise I spotted a copy of Afghan Whigs ‎– Up In It and something just clicked inside my head and memory came back to me that I was listening to these the other day, and I think I enjoyed them, Tony (the shop owner) actually commented that it was not the sort of thing I normally buy.
    It was due to this post, but at the time could remember where I had heard of them.
    I will be giving my thoughts on this in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

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