Monday, February 13, 2012

Desert Island Albums: Afghan Whigs "Gentlemen"

This is torture, choosing 10 albums to take on a desert island. But it forces us to look at the crème de la crème in our CD collections. Those albums without fillers that have accompanied us for a long time. Albums that we keep going back to over and over again, like our musical best friends. It's obviously unfair to the more recent music as we have not yet had the time to create a special relationship with those chords, choruses...they're not yet part of our history. But hell... that's life, right?

So the first album I'd take with me on that dreaded desert island is Gentlemen by The Afghan Whigs. As starters, I'd like to stare at pictures of Greg Dulli if I was stuck on an empty island. The Greg Dulli version 1992 more than the 2012 one, mind. No offense Greg, but you were mightily sexy back then.

So Gentlemen, Afghan Whigs's 4th album, released in 1993 after the succes of Congregation and it's anthemic "Miles Iz Dead"
I instantly fell in love with the artwork. I usually hate kids in films, ads, etc... but that picture...waaaw it says a thousand stories.

The still teenager Sophie loved the tortured lyrics from a bad boy with a little boy's heart inside who wants to love but still courts pleasure instead. Oh dear...
To this day this album has meant a lot to me and I like to blame it for my poor taste in men :-D
Yes Greg Dulli, it's all you fault, you hear me?

The album starts with "If I were Going" which sounds like a menu for the 10 tracks to follow, borrowing lyrics from other tracks on the album. it's a grand entrance that does whet the listener's appetite. Perfect opening then

Song number 2 is the title track, a grungy affair in which our hero wants to be understood and screams at the top of his lungs that he is not a bastard. oh no.

Then comes one of my highlights of the album "Be Sweet" - the rhythm slightly slower but with more pathos, the lyrics have time to ferment and reach their full meaning. 
The only video I've found is a live recording but well, the Dulli charm sure translates well that way too

"Ladies, let me tell you about myself
I got a dick for a brain
And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you.
Now I'm OK, but in time I'll find I'm stuck
'Cause she wants love, and still want to fuck"

Yeah proper romantic that, but girls will be girls and for some reason some of us find that appealing. Call the doctor please!

Onto track 4: another fabulous moment on the album "Debonair"
another live performance as I can't seem to find any proper recordings - and gosh the 90s haven't seem so far and outdated than today...

"Hear me now and don't forget
I'm not the man my actions would suggest
A Little Boy, I'm tied to you
I fell apart
That's what I always do..."

Can you feel the tortured soul, can you? Don't you want to take him in your arms? huh?

Mid album, comes the slow, that terribly saaaaad song with tears rolling on everybody's cheeks. The moment couples fall apart "When we Two parted" but damn they manage to still make it sound sexy (and sick). 

Track 6 et 7: "Fountain & Fairfax and What Jail Is Like" are two very fine poppy grunge tracks in the same vain as the rest of the album, with lyrics and a delivery that clack! in your ears and abdomen
Dulli stays a repentent macho, the guitars are syncopated and the bass vroooms warmly to keep us at arms reach, like a victim happy to stay with its jailor.

Then comes My Curse, one of my favourite piece of music EVER. This track is so f*cking sexy with lots of other emotions attached. I've had many different relationships with that song and its slightly provocative lyrics, its dramatic music and this little je-ne-sais quoi that has always touched me. 

Just close your eyes and listen to this little gem:

"And there's blood on my teeth
When I bite my tongue to speak
Zip me down, kiss me there
I can smile now
You won't find out...ever"

The last 3 tracks from the album always kinda pass me by, just like after great love making, you hear them, its good but what was before was so good and so intense that it never really registers. 

Since 1993 I must have listened to Gentlemen thousands of times, it's been a good friend giving me bad advice for nearly 20 years.
I saw the Whigs just before the release of the album, in 1992 when they played in a small venue in Leuven. I was a young music fan and after the show Dulli spontaneously came to shake my hand and said "thanks for coming to the show". I was in love. I bought a T-shirt and vowed that Afghan Whigs would be my favourite band forever.

This year they are starting to tour again and I bloody well hope to see them live, hopefully in a venue and if not at a festival.

The grunge sound has aged a bit and the lyrics don't touch me the same way today but I still love that band and that album for being my good friends all these years. So yes, I'll take them with me on a desert island.