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The Afghan Whigs rage again on How Do You Burn?

"How Do You Burn?"

Release date: 09 September 2022
Afghan whigs burn artwork
07 September 2022, 00:00 Written by Simon Heavisides

Greg Dulli is one of those artists, the kind where those who know, really know. The evidence of his abilities stacking up inexorably over a thirty five year creative odyssey that’s delivered an embarrassment of riches.

As an artist Dulli’s soul runs deep, ‘soul’ being the keyword linking everything he touches, whether it refers to Marvin Gaye, Grant Hart or Bon Scott is immaterial and there lies the key to his particular genius. Here is a music fan with wide taste and a disdain of genre borders, heck he once worked in Tower Records’ LA record store which must have been heaven despite being minimum wage. But don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s another enthusiast paying homage to heroes, oh no, this is the real deal and pretty much always has been since they ‘clicked’ with Congregation in 1992.

Many bands take a measured approach and build intensity as an album progresses, it’s a sensible strategy. Not the Afghan Whigs. Three albums into a reactivation of the band, How Do You Burn? doesn’t politely knock, it kicks the door in.

“I’ll Make You See God” throws down a startling, possibly rash, promise in its title but makes clear this is music that whilst a sure fire visceral thrill is also all about the transcendence true art can bring. As a song it’s a metallic, bass bending Stooges pummelling with a swagger that outdoes Queens of the Stone Age in casual intensity. However in the context of How Do You Burn?, it tells only a fraction of the story.

Air cleared, acquaintances re-made, attention secured: this is how Dulli operates via a potent form of hypnotic musical black magic, you don’t even notice the act of being pulled in but it’s great when you get there. Certainly it’s a dark and dense album, ranging far and wide across the emotional and musical landscape and therefore ideally needs repeated exposure in order to fully reach the secrets within, whether it’s the aching blue eyed soul of “Please, Baby, Please” or the spectral “Domino and Jimmy” featuring the sublime return of Marcy Mays twenty-nine years after her guest spot on “My Curse”.

While death hangs heavy over a record that was apparently titled by Dulli’s close friend and collaborator the late Mark Lanegan, this is the raging against the dying of the light reaction rather than resignation or even acceptance.

Less a reunion than another spot on a continuum, or more prosaically simply a necessary resumption of unfinished business, How Do You Burn? ups the ante on its two predecessors going deeper in a richly assured display of Dulli and the band’s abilities.

Catharsis rarely tasted so sweet, and yes, it rocks as well. Naturally.

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