The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen (Cover Artwork)

The Afghan Whigs

Gentlemen (1993)


The Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen is a mix of soul and post-punk: it has Greg Dulli's cry-to-repent vocals, complete with the lyrics about self-pity and damnation; then we have the instruments, which are rather reminiscent of the complex yet loud rhythms and signatures of post-punkers. There's not many other bands to compare this unit to both before their time and since (at least outside of Screaming Trees, as Dulli is good friends with Trees' Mark Lanegan, and is even currently in the band Gutter Twins with him, who released their first album just shortly ago).

The Afghan Whigs were based around Cincinnati, Ohio and were one of the definitive acts of the 1990s, up until their breakup in 2001. This is because they "created" a sound, not rode a bandwagon of past bands. They were, rather, the alchemists of this peculiar mixture that makes the band something to treasure. While Gentlemen's first half attains balance between two disparate sounds, side two has more of a emphasis on actual singing, and its soul edge is more apparent than its post-punk side. However, on songs like the rushing "Now You Know" and the stellar " What Jail Is Like," Gentleman cannot be accused too much of frontal padding, but rather going through two different phases, with slightly varying results.

Again on the second half, "My Curse" has a nice change of pace to Dulli's singing with female vocals from the pretty-voiced but somewhat craggy-sounding Marcy Mays. Although this song, at roughly two-thirds into the album, is also a slight step backwards from what came before it due to it not being as driving, yet it is still a testament to Afghan Whigs' diversity. Other songs like the beautiful but somewhat obviously-placed "Brother Woodrow / Closing Prayer," or Dulli's chance at being a blues-soul relict, "I Keep Coming Back," are two pieces that actually work on an album with lyrics like, "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 I still want to fuck."

That prior lyric line was taken from the song, "Be Sweet," a white-hot rocker of classic proportions. That song, along with "Debonair" (probably the Whigs' best song) and the title track are tracks that give this album its grand status, as it's often part of many best-of-the-1990s lists. Gentlemen is the album that took this once-just-another grunge band into dazzling new heights. It is a great record made in a time when many acts didn't seem to know what non-metal-infused punk was. More than 15 years on, and Gentlemen is still an evolution of music.