After 16 years, Greg Dulli doesn't just dust off the Whigs' cobwebs, he storms through them.
In 1998, Tony Blair had only been Prime Minister for a year, the World Cup was won by host nation France and 90 per cent of the world's pagers had been put out of action because of a communications satellite failure. Yes, that's right, the world was still using pagers. It was also when The Afghan Whigs released their last album, the warmly received 1965. Sixteen years later, Dulli has returned with a new line up and the band's seventh studio album, Do To The Beast. Has anything changed?
Thankfully, the answer is no. The Afghan Whigs were always known to take every musical influence they could grab and blend them together with an air of theatre to take us away from the commercial, repetitive albums so often heard on the radio.
We kick off with some thunderous power chords on the opening foot stomper, Parked Outside. If there's ever an opening to an album that announces 'we're back', then this is it, with Dulli growling in fine angry menace. Metamoros mixes exotic Eastern sounds with funky guitar riffs and some typically threatening lyrics. If there's any doubt about Dulli being able to hit the high notes at 50 years of age, these are soon dissipated when listening to It Kills. Time has not dulled the front man's voice, it sounds better than it ever did. I don't know if the fact he's quit smoking has anything to do with it but he's certainly not holding back when it comes to throwing out his newly-discovered vocal range. This is a bold, loud, shameless album where, after being away for so long, manages to sound both new and familiar. Lost In The Woods begins as a moody piano track which then explodes into a major chorus of gratuitous guitar. It sounds so bright and jolly that it wasn't until I listened to the lyrics I realised what Dulli was singing about. Never before has what seems to be a song about someone being murdered in the middle of nowhere sound so happy and uplifiting. The latter few songs on the album are a little easier to forget but it's refreshing to hear an album that embraces all of its influences, chews them together and then spits them out at full volume. There's still plenty of drama in The Afghan Whigs' music and, while many things may have changed since the late nineties, Dulli and The Afghan Whigs' ability to produce a moody, atmospheric album certainly hasn't.