The Afghan Whigs
Tuesday, April 15
You can blame Usher for signing Justin Bieber, but at least the soul man seems intent on atoning for his sins. It was none other than Usher Raymond IV whom we can thank for facilitating the resurfacing of the Afghan Whigs, one of the ’90s’ most critically beloved bands, who called it quits at the height of its creativity in 1998. But after a joint show at last year’s South by Southwest, which capped a series of reunion shows for the Whigs, making a new record finally seemed to make sense.
Do to the Beast, out today, is the band’s first album of new music in 16 years and its first for Sub Pop since 1992, which signed the Cincinnati band 25 years ago as its first act from outside the region. Though singer/guitarist Greg Dulli has stayed active with the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins in the meantime, Beast finds him harnessing the full spectrum of his songwriting. At times majestic (“Can Rova”), at others visceral (“The Lottery”) and oozing with sex (“Parked Outside”), the album is the rare comeback that doesn’t feel as if a once-formidable band is grasping at what formerly made it great. Rather, it’s an extension of those qualities—namely Dulli’s raging id, which has long been at the center of his work. For the first time, he mucked with his formula: writing all the music first—not just for each song, but for the entire album—then added lyrics on top of everything. “I walked around through the neighborhoods of my life,” he told Rolling Stone, “using my imagination to create environments that I could move around in.”
Absent from the album, and from the band’s Seattle date, is founding guitarist Rick McCollum; personal problems got in the way of his participation. The band is touring instead with an expanded lineup that allows the Whigs to reinterpret its sound through players who weren’t there originally and who can bring the new songs to life. “I’m going to play rock and roll with my friends this summer,” Dulli said in advance of the original reunion shows in 2012. “And if it leads to something else, that’s what will happen.” Thankfully, it did. With Early Winters. The Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxonline.com. 9 p.m. $31.50 adv./$37 DOS. 21 and over.