The Afghan Whigs - Black Love (20th Anniversary Edition) reissue album review

Fear and loathing in Cincinnati: noir classic redux.

The Afghan Whigs Black Love album cover

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Although less successful commercially than 1993’s breakthrough Gentlemen, the follow-up, Black Love, can easily be viewed as that album’s darker twin. The question mark over where Greg Dulli’s misanthropic persona ended and his own brand of masochistic machismo began was never more blurred. Achingly raw and visceral in its examination of break-ups, fuck-ups and regret, there’s just enough bitter redemption on offer to salve the wounds.

The dually interpretive title points as much to the album’s musical heritage – Stax, blaxploitation, soul, 70s Stones, all rinsed through a Who-esque R&B cycle – as it does the emotional content. The funky sophistication of Blame, Etc. and Bulletproof saw the band stretch well beyond the reach of their more grunge-anchored peers, and the album’s absorption of literary and filmic noir added more ballast.

It’s brightly remastered, and appended by the usual clutch of demos, jams and a droll cover of New Order’s Regret, the standout of these being a sparse acoustic prototype of Going To Town that channels the austere heart of Springsteen’s Nebraska. Two decades on, its dark glamour remains undimmed.

Tim Batcup

Tim Batcup is a writer for Classic Rock magazine and Prog magazine. He's also the owner of Cover To Cover, Swansea's only independent bookshop, and a director of Storyopolis, a free children’s literacy project based at the Volcano Theatre, Swansea. He likes music, books and Crass.