The Afghan Whigs’ three albums leading up to this one, Congregation, Gentlemen, and Black Love, are rightly hailed as classic examples of their time and have held up as the years have progressed. While Gentlemen is rightfully lauded as a highly influential record, upon its release, 1965 felt like it was the continuation of that line and that it would send the band stratospheric. Singer Greg Dulli, always a writer with a cinematic, widescreen vision for his records (all their albums are credited as being “shot on location” in their sleeve notes), said at the time of its release he was working to a new theme. Following the deep seam of guilt on Gentlemen and revenge on Black Love, the Whigs were taking a “backseat to lust” on 1965, and from the opening sound of a match striking and the whispered words of “I’ll meet you in the bathroom…” this is a party album with a difference.
While it has a cocksure strut and a southern charm, it also covers the life of played out party people (“Uptown Again”) and shows us what can happen when the substances get too much (“Omerta”). And yet, despite all of the potential downers on display, the band sneaks all of this by you with some of the most alive, groove-filled music of their career. You will dance your behind off to the bar-room piano of “Somethin’ Hot,” and the groove of “66” suggests that OutKast were listening when they wrote “Hey Ya!.” The album pivots around “Citi Soliel” and its use of steel drums as Dulli screams, “Ooh child, I’ll meet you child, on the sunny side.” However, after that you are taken towards the darker end of town… it gets later and the party has thinned out to just two people. “Slide Song,” “John The Baptist” and the downright lascivious “Neglekted” – with its refrain of “Cos when I do what I’m gonna do to you, make sure you remember my name” – show that the people involved have just one thing on their minds. The lust has truly arrived.
The album closers “Omerta” and “The Vampire Lanois” slow things down further and show you the after effects of a long party; the morning after the morning after. You can hear the guilt creeping back in through lines like “if I have love, then I hide it, and the people that I hide it from have helped to deny that it’s not enough to show you care.” Both of these songs in particular show off the talents of the core members of the band, John Curley’s taut bass and Rick McCollum acetylene sharp guitar lines. 1965 seemed like a fitting way to end a career, although we didn’t know it at the time.
1965 was rightly hailed as a triumph upon its release and the band went on tour taking a huge cast of supporting musicians, including the wonderful Susan Marshall on backing vocals. It’s her vocals that bring opener “Somethin’ Hot” to life. The album truly takes off at “Citi Soliel,” but it’s the twisted funk of “John The Baptist” and slinky soul of “Neglekted” that make this album stand out. An honorable nod must also go to “The Slide Song” for its beautiful crescendo.
After 1965 the band parted on the best of terms and at the peak of their career. The recent spate of Afghan Whigs gigs have been triumphant, celebratory affairs, with all three core band members more than contributing. New material has been mooted, and it’s impossible to say that it won’t be up to the same standards as the run that culminated in 1965. After 1965, Dulli formed The Twilight Singers and released five studio albums and a joint album as the Gutter Twins with Mark Lanegan. Guitarist Rick McCollum formed Moon Maan, and bassist John Curley worked in his own studio, Ultrasuede. They have been playing again as the Afghan Whigs since May 2012, and have also released three covers as free downloads: “Teenie Marie Lyons,” “See and Don’t See,” and Frank Ocean’s “Love Crimes.”
Reviewer: Mat Riches
IRC: Nick Amies
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