Gentleman (Afghan Whigs) (33 1/3 series) by Bob Gendron

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I’m a huge Afghan Whigs fan. Still, I hadn’t listened to “Gentleman” by them in a long time. Earlier this year, I realized it did not make it here in my move of three years ago, and I needed to buy it again. I got a good deal on it over at Frugal Muse and settled into listening to it again. Then, “Do To The Beast”, their newest album, was released, and “Gentleman” got a back shelf place for many months.  Then I got to see them for the first time ever at Riot Fest- a week later, I won tickets to see them in Chicago, courtesy of a radio giveaway. That was easily one of the best concerts I have seen in my life- the energy, the smoldering, the blues, the Dulli. Recently, a slew of publicity has crept up surrounding the 21st anniversary of the release of “Gentleman”. The Whigs, currently on tour, did a show in Brooklyn to celebrate, and there is a dandy new stacked-to-the-gills-with extras deluxe edition just released (Christmas is coming). It’s fitting that in one of the articles discussing the release of this new edition and the show to celebrate, that this book was mentioned. I’m a bookstore manager, have been for fifteen years, and I had no idea this existed. I ordered, bought, and sat down on an otherwise shitty day to read this little love song to a great, underappreciated album that truly defined a lot of 90’s angst (no joke).  If you’re a fan of the Whigs or even just Dulli, grab a copy, pour some wine, and sit down for a hell of a read.

This was the first album where Whigs fans got an idea of the extent of the bedroom toys in Greg Dulli’s bag of tricks. Not just a seductive lure to the masses, but a psychological portrait of warfare in love, lust, sadomasochism, power trips, drama, and just about every messed up emotion that one can bring into play when that silly four letter word is involved. I’m a huge Whigs fan and this retelling of their excellent album “Gentleman” made me want to revisit it extensively (I’m more of a “Black Love” worshipee myself, but this, my friends, is where the rivers of Dulli’s soul started to turn red. And you can’t turn away once you hear his story. Brother Woodrow, indeed). I had almost forgotten how he was attacked in a bathroom at an arena the Whigs played in 1998, leaving him with a skull fracture that put him in a coma in a Texas hospital (the story is that the Whigs knocked on the door to be admitted to the venue, and the redneck hombre used a racist term that made Dulli haul off and punch him. The guy doesn’t take shit.). The thing about the 33 1/3 series is that you have a fairly small book detailing one iconic album. I learned a lot from this book, more than I had known. The story of how the cover came to be, what inspired it, and how Linda Ronstandt turned out to be a feminist snob regarding the cover, are all tied up with a neat little bow.  I also learned a lot about chord progression, the songs themselves, how Dulli held five part time jobs while trying to get a record deal, and how he somehow managed to sing six of “Gentleman”‘s most emotionally packed songs while drunk and flying high on coke, with a stripper waiting in the car for him (true story, all). It’s really amazing that the album was made at all, so depressed and overly chemically dependent Dulli was at the time. Then again, as proven with music in past and in present, heartbreak often produces nothing short of brilliance. Certainly the case here, although the advent of grunge guaranteed that the Whigs didn’t chart as high up as they should have, although Dulli and Co. bear no grudges; in fact, one of the more touching parts of the book is the revelation that Cobain gave Dulli and the boys a shot when some other bands would not do so (mainly due to the Whigs NOT being from Washington), and the tribute that Dulli and the Whigs gave Cobain when he passed. That’s something I had never heard of; made me love them even more! Gendron does a great job of maintaining a neutral perspective when examining and observing all facets of the making of the album, as well as before and beyond. As I said, definitely a must read for the obsessive Whig fan (ME), or even the generally interested.  Get it, read it, and turn someone else onto it.

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~ by generationgbooks on November 10, 2014.

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