Put On Your Whigs and Practice Some Black Love

Posted: September 26, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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The_Afghan_Whigs_-_Black_LoveAt some point recently, Dave was having a conversation with me about writing for the blog (or other blogs in general, or in his case, his Examiner columns) and mixing up, changing up, the styles of writing. Tonight, I re-read some of my blog posts on here and I decided it’s time for me to mix it up a bit. I’m still going to get spacing wrong. I’m still going to dwell too much on the past (esp. involving my exes when it connects to the music I’m writing about). I’m still going to ramble on. However, in the spirit of change, I am not writing about an album that I had to chase high and low, nor that is related to any flames that burned out quickly. I am instead going to write about an album that I love for many reasons, and is one of my favorite possessions on the vinyl frontier.

Black Love came out in March of 1996. 1996 wasn’t a great year, as chronicled in previous posts. When in darkest places of one’s mind, often the most bleak torches burning are what keep some fires lit. This was most definitely the case with The Afghan Whigs’ fifth album Black Love. I already owned several Whigs CD’s and I had more than a case on that sexy, tortured lead singer, Mr. Greg Dulli. I saw the video for “Honky’s Ladder” on MTV’s 120 Minutes with Mat’Teo Pinhead one late night. Of course, I was drunk on the Southern Comfort and just feeling down, and I was thrilled to hear they were premiering it that night. I watched, I tapped my foot like an AARP member drunk on prune juice, I felt my little midget heart beating fast palpitations at the sight of the swivel-hipped Man In Black of my dreams. I was already digging the song through periodic playings on Pew 101, and now I had the visual to add to it. If you haven’t seen the video, Youtube it and prepare. It’s not sunshine, Klondike bars, kiddie wagons, and cheer. It’s closer to darkness, Hemlock, torture devices, and doom.  The album, as to be expected, isn’t much of a departure from the themes in that song.

Black Love is said to be inspired mostly by Dulli’s love of movie noir and true crime, and the frayed ends of those loose ties. This is an album that, in my opinion, doesn’t house a weak song on it.  I remember reading somewhere that Dulli was inspired by James Ellroy. That alone was enough to warrant I would have to own it on vinyl. The album itself, doomed as it was in alternative music Midwest nation, circa 1996, many were too busy checking out the twin bombs of Bush’s second album and a doozy of an album called Throwing Copper by a Pennsylvania band called Live, to enjoy the dark vision that the Whigs presented. I loved it. There was nothing that year that resonated more with my misery than that album. I was coming off the broken engagement, drinking way too much, smoking way too much, crying too much, and watching my depressed mom battle her mental demons to her eventual death, to NOT appreciate the stealth darkness that the Whigs had brought to me. I’ve listened to it more and more lately, as my mind is putting itself through some very hard questions, with answers that seemingly will fuck shit up, if they are to be addressed honestly. It’s not a beach blanket bingo album, no Afghan Whigs album is, and that’s why they are one of my favorite bands. This album, in particular, helped me through many rough nights. Despite the overall unhappy vibe that it carries, the Whigs somehow manage to transcend the general message and reach out to those listening to the album. If nothing else, i felt like someone understood what heartbreak was that year, and they letting you know that you weren’t going down alone- Greg Dulli and Co. were going down too. It sounds completely ridiculous, but I still can listen to it now and feel some small, hidden shards of hope in that framework somewhere.

Acquiring it on vinyl wasn’t anywhere as difficult as some of the other acquisitions on Hannibal Collector were. I simply went over to Beautiful Day in downtown LaGrange and the weird frizzy-haired owner dude told me he would order it for me. I didn’t get a deluxe edition, although I’m sure there is one out there somewhere, but I got it. I still have it, and I’m sure that the record is not in great shape, because I played the fuck out of it.  I encourage anyone who wants to hear a multi-faceted band with a healthy appreciation of soul, darkness, and sex to pick up this record. You won’t be sorry.

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