1993, Music

Gentlemen (1993) by The Afghan Whigs

Expectations are a terrible thing. I had none the first time I listened to this record. But, not really getting how it had made it on to my list of major album anniversaries for October 1993, I looked it up and started reading all the praise out there. So by the second time I listened to it, I had expectations. And I once again didn’t really understand what the fuss was.

But I must say I also don’t understand the alternative take, except as a reaction to the excessive praise. There are numerous user reviews on RYM, for example, which claim that a) this band sounds like tons of other bands (they don’t) and b) their lead singer is awful (he’s not and if you think he’s terrible you should listen to punk). I get that reading 5 star reviews of a record and then listening to that record and not getting it can illicit anger, but I’m not sure this record deserves it.

I think I know what’s up: a bunch of impressionable young men, some of whom were music critics (or soon to be music critics) heard this record at a time in their lives when the lyrics particularly resonated. As has happened many times in the history of music (not just popular music) these men decided that their subjective feelings meant that this record was a masterpiece. (I know how this goes, it has happened to me with many bands.)

The songs are reasonably catchy for alternative rock songs but I’m not sure that Dulli is any kind of really great tunesmith. His lyrics have dated rather a lot, as many other people have pointed out. This kind of male navel-gazing is a lot less cool in 2018.

The arrangements are rough enough to categorize music which might otherwise not sound particularly alternative in the US in 1993 as such. (It sounds much closer to British alternative rock, which was always less angry and punky.) As others have noted, there is the teeniest touch of a soul/R&B influence but I think that has been overstated and it seems like it is also rewriting history, as apparently the band embraced soul later on.

I just don’t think that much of it. It’s well made and the songs are okay, but the lyrics don’t do it for me and there’s not enough of the things I like about alternative rock for me to get excited about. It’s relatively unique, I think, but it’s not my thing.


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