When Greg Dulli and John Curley reformed the Afghan Whigs for their strong 2014 comeback LP, Do to the Beast, fans and critics were quick to point out the group’s moody and restrained sound. On their equally terrific follow-up, In Spades, it seems that the Cincinnati six-piece are back in full-retro Whigs mode.
Much of the unbridled energy the band exude on LP number eight seems to stem from the fact that In Spades was recorded right in the studio in a full band setting, as tracks like “Arabian Heights” and “Copernicus” play off thudding, driving polyrhythms that once fuelled classic Whigs tracks like “Gentlemen” or Miles Iz Ded.” In addition, the thoughtfulness that aids tracks like the soul-searching “Demon in Profile” and the bouncy anthem “Light as a Feather” feel like they benefit from the album’s swift conception and short recording session.
The Whigs never feel complacent on In Spades: “Toy Automatic” is bedazzled by a rubbery Kamasi Washington sax breakdown, while “Oriole” moves from emaciated acoustic strumming to woozy string symphonies and electric guitar squeals in just four minutes. At 51 years of age, frontman Dulli comes off tremendously tuneful, energetic and exploratory across the album’s ten tracks, a fact best exemplified on closer “Into the Floor,” a track born from an onstage jam that the band would often close shows with.
Dulli and company manage to elatedly deliver everything long-standing fans crave in an Afghan Whigs album — and they do so in spades. (Sub Pop)