In 2006 The Twilight Singers–Dulli’s main post-Afghan Whigs group–were playing Paradise Rock Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dulli, dressed in all black, mopped the stage with the sweat of his movements, sneering at the audience and lumbering to the edge of the stage with every song’s moment of impact.
When an older woman heckled Dulli, he relished the exchange, sensing an opportunity to break the glass between performer and spectator. His grinned was soaked. He shot back at the woman with venom, on a level nearing flirtation–a sequence the man, in life and song, is no stranger of. The moment was borderline worrisome, the tension raw. Dulli seemed close to walking off stage to buy the woman a drink and disappear down the dark hallways of the club with her. Each song was more exacerbated as he continued to bark back. The performance is marked as one of my favorites.
Dulli is a man who does not apologize for who he is and the music he has been involved with, first with the Afghan Whigs, then The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins, reflects that. Do to the Beast is The Afghan Whigs’ return album. And this one is for real. Their last, 1965, was released 16 years ago in 1998.
Their seventh album comes appropriately in line of the The Whigs’ discography. Sound comes out thick as a steak, guitars of raunch rip and rumble, and somewhere along the way you’ll think to yourself, “I should make a drink for this.”
The perfectly titled, “Parked Outside,” starts the album off with a mudflap drumbeat and dirty guitars that gird and goad. Dulli sneers and rasps and whines as Dulli most skillfully does. “Matamoros” has a palm-muted guitar that warns then slithers into a snake-charmer trance. Dulli smokes a cigar and puts an old love firmly in the past.
Dulli aches all over Do to the Beast. “It kills to watch you love another,” he laments over the piano-driven burner, “It Kills.” On “Lost in the Woods” he slumps over two hard slabs of piano that rock back and forth. The trees pass until he arrives at a lake. “Sitting outside in the cold, I can see that you’re not alone,” he sings, unable to pull himself away.
The album is saturated with lonesome regret. On “Algiers” Dulli gives the ultimatum: “Dream your sins away, sin your dreams away.”
On most Afghan Whigs’ and Twilight Singer’s records there is one recurrent comfort: The Car. “Can Rova” finds Dulli strapped in for a slow drive out of town, away from the haunted past. “I can’t see you anymore,” he gulps down. The sinewy song takes off wistfully into a burst of hyper drum beat, then ends.
Do to the Beast is a strong return album for The Afghan Whigs. The darkness of the night comes in swinging and never lets up. If they’re looking to make up for the 16-year hole, I’ll be listening. www.theafghanwhigs.com
Eli Jace is an arts journalist living in New York City. He is a staff writer for
Independent Music Promotions and Quiet Lunch Magazine. He works at the New York Post. There is quite often a drum-set being played in his mind. www.EliJace.blogspot.com and www.QuietLunch.com