How Do You Burn?

Sep 12, 2022
Web Exclusive

By Michael James Hall


From 1990’s Up In It through to 1998’s 1965, Greg Dulli’s soulful Cincinnati band The Afghan Whigs delivered classic after classic. Each release felt like a rare, glowing, black diamond, with ’93’s Gentlemen in particular a golden antidote to the artless riffola of many of their peers. Filled with confessional, tortured lyrics and conversely anthemic instrumentation, they were one of the most complex and exhilarating bands of the era.

Dulli’s status as the wicked uncle of modern barroom blues has been cemented over the years since the Whigs originally split-up in 2001, through his work with Twilight Singers, alongside the late, legendary Mark Lanegan (who features here) in The Gutter Twins, and as a solo artist in his own right.

Since the Whigs reformation proper in 2011 (after a temporary 2006 reunion) they’ve offered an electrifying live show to rival the heady heights of their heyday along with a couple of pretty good records. Their latest, How Do You Burn?, radiates with their trademark brooding menace, particularly on the stunning “Domino and Jimmy” and with the melancholy beauty of “Please, Baby, Please.”

When the pace picks up on the frantic album opener “I’ll Make You See God” and in the wild abandon of “Catch a Colt,” the ferocity of their flame appears largely undiminished. Maybe truest to the Whigs of old is the juddering widescreen of “A Line of Shots,” while “In Flames” contains the most Dulli line: “Snowblind and left behind/I’m on the street and I’m looking for a good time.”

How Do You Burn? is uneven though, sometimes clichéd, and there are stretches here more concerned with sound than with song, but with epic, textured production from Dulli and longtime collaborator Christopher Thorn, that’s partly understandable.

The diamond may not always shine quite the way it used to, then, but it seems there’s plenty of black gold left in The Afghan Whigs. (www.theafghanwhigs.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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