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When All the Sex is Make Up Sex

May 26, 2012

In praise of The Afghan Whig’s Gentlemen

So it doesn’t seem to get on any critics top 10 records of the 90’s. You know the list that is usually reserved for Slanted and Enchanted or OK Computer or Nevermind.
This always seemed criminal to me until I realized this is the kind of record that would fuck all those other record’s girlfriends and then never call them back again.
That sucking sound you hear at the beginning of Gentlemen is your whole notion of romance sliding down a dark and dirty drain.
Greg Dulli had more swagger than a rapper and more soul than your top 40 R&B crooner. He had more rage than your average punk band and more angst than your circa 90’s college rock play list.
All that would make Gentlemen a notable footnote but what the Whigs also had going for them was a way to deconstruct romance and songs about romance in a truly organic honest way.
They lacked the knowing irony and distance of your typical art rock semiotics major.
When Greg sings “I got a dick for a brain and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you” he means it. But at the same time he also indicts himself and that dick that got him to the shameless pleading and begging for forgiveness in “I Keep Coming Back” at the end.
But of course that song is just him giving his best “I’m sorry baby, I’ll change” plea so his girl will take him back so he can fuck up some more.
Now I’ll leave the deconstruction to minds better than mine but from the cover of the album to the hardly veiled substance abuse metaphors/references we all know love is the drug and what you get hooked on as a kid will keep you chasing it well into adulthood.
Of course the Whigs transcend easy lit major critic metaphors and that is exactly what makes them great.
In these safe and careful times while other bands throw you a wink to let you know that’s not really them the Whigs will give you a knowing sneer.
Every song here is written with the first person pronoun and while self-accusations and recriminations fly the only time the fairer sex get their say is in “My Curse” which of course blurs gender lines and turns into some weird sadomasochistic co-dependent nightmare.
Gentlemen lets it all hang out however ugly and most of all lets you know the sin is not quite so sweet without the guilt.
So Be Sweet.

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