Afghan Whigs – In Spades
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With their second album since reuniting in 2012, it's clear that Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli has decided to give the band's sound an overhaul that's likely to be permanent. One of the more puzzling things about the Whigs' 2014 comeback LP, Do to the Beast, was that it didn't sound an awful lot like the band's best-known work, and that's once again the case with 2017's follow-up In Spades, though both albums have Dulli and his obsessions written all over them. The songs still dwell on the dark side of the human psyche and the ugly aspects of romantic relationships (a theme Dulli couldn't abandon if he tried), but musically Dulli has taken his fusion of R&B and indie rock and retooled it. The proportions feel the same, but the ingredients are fundamentally different, with less emphasis on guitar-based grit, and keyboards and strings taking their place. In short, Do to the Beast and In Spades sound more like Dulli's work with his side project the Twilight Singers than the Afghan Whigs, and it's worth noting bassist John Curley is once again the only other Whigs veteran in the lineup (and the absence of guitarist Rick McCollum is a reminder of how fundamental he was to the group's sound in their heyday). That said, In Spades is a much better Twilight Singers album than the relative misfire of Do to the Beast, generating a greater amount of power and evoking a sinister atmosphere that was decidedly overcooked on the previous album. "Arabian Heights," "Demon in Profile," and "Copernicus" diverge from the sound of Afghan Whigs' masterpieces like Congregation and Gentlemen, but the songs connect in the way Dulli's best stuff does, and if he's chosen to bury his own vocals in the mix, the odd production choice works in this context. In Spades confirms Greg Dulli is still a talent worth following, and if this strays from the template of the classic Afghan Whigs sound, it's not like that group was ever a democracy in the truest sense. It's Dulli's band, and what he's delivered here honestly satisfies.