For a band that have often spent their career acting as a cipher for exorcising singer Greg Dulli's personal demons, The Afghan Whigs' eighth album In Spades seems to spend a heck of a lot of time courting metaphysical ones, invocations that range from Christopher Friedman's oddly Lovecraftian sleeve art to arcane song titles such as The Spell, Demon In Profile and Arabian Heights.
Reformed in 2014 after a thirteen year hiatus, the Whigs status as an alt.rock institution - one cemented on the major label trilogy Black Love, Gentleman and 1965 in the 1990's - has ostensibly clicked back into place without effort, a been-round-the-block cred which their initial post comeback release Do The Beast seeded cautiously.
This time around Dulli's writing he concedes has been heavily influenced by 2016's hero genocide, a KIA list including the iconic David Bowie but most specifically Prince, an unlikely kindred spirit the band's creative epicentre revealed he's watched perform many times. In Spades brims with the energy this sort of grief-by-proxy can unlock, opener Birdland obviously name checking the iconic jazz hangout but also more obliquely the neighbourhood in Ross, Ohio of Dulli's childhood. The experience itself in fact is remarkably un-Whigs like, a stack of mellotrons and choral backing stabbing gently, the whole thing supposedly created in an hour but sounding like the culmination of years of repressing everything.
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