Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Album of the Month: IN SPADES by The Afghan Whigs


It's incredible what passes for good music these days. People are ready to trick you into anything. Some claim Mac DeMarco is a talent of laidback, introspective sort. He isn't. Some say Perfume Genius hasn't committed a career suicide having evolved beyond the raw, piano-based debut. He has. Some bring up Amanda Palmer. Don't. 

May (no pun intended) has been a poor month overall. Slowdive cannot survive on nostalgic memories alone and there's just something lacking about Paul Weller's post-80s songwriting. Some vital chord. Something effortless. Greg Dulli, on the other hand, has that chord tight between his teeth and is writing some of his best songs in these post-reunion days of the 21st century.

Following a whole month of active listening, I would say that In Spades is a better record than 2014's already excellent Do To The Beast. I'm continuously intrigued by the sheer songwriting depth. Raw yet elaborate. Bruised one second, delicate the next, intermittently powerful. You simply cannot deny the wounded ecstasy of "Toy Automatic" or the strings propelling "The Spell" or the understated glory of the piano in "I Got Lost". "Birdland", too, is something else. 

Occasionally it verges on overproduced. Dulli's emotional thrust, however, inflicts the necessary restraint. Quite simply, In Spades is rock music with a tortured edge. 

The Afghan Whigs. There has always been something deeply uncomfortable about that name. The two words are bad enough on their own yet putting them together makes it a fucking mess. Not that Greg Dulli would mind. That or the cheap artwork, blatantly inconsistent with the music. But who would care, or dare to remember, when this is some of the most intriguing songwriting you will hear all year.