In Spades The Afghan Whigs
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- 2Arabian Heights05:07
- 3Demon in Profile03:23
- 4Toy Automatic02:56
- 7The Spell03:46
- 8Light as a Feather03:10
- 9I Got Lost03:20
- 10Into the Floor03:23
Info for In Spades
“Cleromancy” isn’t a word one normally finds in rock lyrics. Then again, In Spades – the forthcoming album by The Afghan Whigs, from which the new song “Oriole” hails – is defined only by its own mystical inner logic. The term means to divine, in a supernatural manner, a prediction of destiny from the random casting of lots: the throwing of dice, picking a card from a deck. From its evocative cover art to the troubled spirits haunting its halls, In Spades casts a spell that challenges the listener to unpack its dark metaphors and spectral imagery. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Greg Dulli, Afghan Whigs’ songwriter and frontman. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me it’s about memory – in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.”
On the one hand, In Spades is as quintessentially Afghan Whigs as anything the group has ever done – fulfilling its original mandate to explore the missing link between howling Midwestern punk like Die Kreuzen and Hüsker Dü, The Temptations’ psychedelic soul symphonies, and the expansive hard rock tapestries of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the same time, this new record continues to push beyond anything in the Whigs’ previous repertoire – another trademark, along with the explosive group dynamic captured on the recording.
Indeed, the chemistry of the lineup – Dulli, guitarists Dave Rosser and Jon Skibic, drummer Patrick Keeler, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson, and Whigs co-founder/bassist John Curley – set the tone for In Spades’ creation. When it came to follow up the band’s triumphant return to recording – Do To the Beast (Sub Pop 2014), which was the band’s first ever Top 40 album, – the die was cast. “This is the first time since Black Love [the Whigs’ 1996 noir masterpiece] that we’ve done a full-blown band album,” Dulli says. “As the last tour wound down, Greg and I realized we wanted to keep the momentum going and roll that energy into making a record,” Curley explains. “I’m old school in that way. Having a band seasoned in playing together was how we made [classic Whigs albums like] Gentlemen and Congregation and it just felt right.”
In fact, In Spades’ crushing closing track “Into The Floor” had actually evolved out of an onstage jam that concluded Whigs fan favorite “Miles Iz Dead” every night. “People would ask all the time why don't you record that?,” Dulli says. “One day we were like, ‘Well, why don't we?’ And we nailed it in one take.”
Material continued to come fast and furious. Two months after the Whigs’ 2015 tour concluded, the band members reconvened at Nelson’s studio Marigny Sound in New Orleans; within a week, half of the ten songs that would make In Spades final tracklist were laid down. Something heavy clearly hung in the air. Standout “Copernicus” rocks with a thump evoking T. Rex meets Jesus Lizard, while “Arabian Heights” exudes the gutbucket exoticism of Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti writ large, driven by Keeler’s bravura, muscularly tribal cadences. “Rick [Nelson, who engineered the album] got incredible drum sounds, and what Patrick does on that song is a master class in drumming,” Dulli says. “It was like watching a Formula One racer move through the gears. And the combination of Rosser’s Southern grease and Skibic’s guitar acrobatics kept astounding me. Skibic is a master of atmosphere: the sounds he makes on ‘Oriole’ are like a cosmic smoke machine.” The Afghan Whigs’ soul side also rises to new heights on In Spades, largely inspired by the lush productions of R&B genius Norman Whitfield for The Temptations and Undisputed Truth. Throughout his oeuvre, Dulli has employed horn sections to tantalizing effect since 1965, the 1998 swan song LP from the Whigs’ first incarnation – and yes, that’s a young Kamasi Washington playing on “Esta Noche” off of Dulli’s post-Whigs outfit The Twilight Singers’ 2003 opus Blackberry Belle. However, on In Spades he truly harnesses their soul power on songs like “Toy Automatic.” “I brought the horns in on ‘Toy Automatic’ for emotional devastation,” Dulli explains. “The horns pulling those long lines gave me so much power: when they come in, the song takes off, and I sing with everything I have. It might be the most unbridled vocal I’ve ever done. Every record I have a favorite child, and ‘Toy Automatic’ is that here.
In Spades also reveals a new, brutalist minimalism to Dulli’s wordplay: lines like “Don’t you cum when they come for me” and “Taste your fear/They rely on volunteers” (both from “Arabian Heights”) succinctly distill the vivid, paranoiac eroticism he’s become famed for. “Greg’s reached a place where he can now say more with less,” Curley says. “The lyrics stand on their own as written, even on the page, separate from the song.” A renowned lyricist, here Dulli revels in the play of phonetics, letting the sounds lead to imagistic, often surreal wordplay, like the provocative couplets enlivening “Copernicus”: “Listen in the distance/As the sky begins to fall/Raining down like crystalline/Apocalypse in thrall.”
According to Dulli, his recent lyrical obsessions reflect the period spent “writing these songs alongside some of the most peculiar upheavals in history” – both personal and global. Mortality was never far from his mind: “I Got Lost” was written in the wake of Dulli learning that longtime collaborator Dave Rosser had been diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. As well, Dulli found himself profoundly affected by the recent passing of many of the icons that inspired him to make music in the first place. “It was a year of unrelenting death,” he says. “The reaper was hungry in 2016. Prince’s passing perhaps affected me the most. He was my North Star. Watching him upped my quality control, and opened my eyes to the absolute joy and necessity of self-evolution.”
As such, while tracks like “Light As a Feather” exude the rhythmic tension and psychosexual aura of signature Whigs numbers like “John the Baptist,” other songs fearlessly enter completely uncharted waters. “The way the album sounded as it took direction was a surprise, but then with Greg, it always is,” says Curley.
The Afghan Whigs
The Afghan Whigs
Evolving from a garage punk band in the vein of the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., and Mudhoney to a literate, pretentious, soul-inflected post-punk quartet, the Afghan Whigs were one of the most critically acclaimed alternative bands of the early '90s. Although the band never broke into the mainstream, it developed a dedicated cult following, primarily because of lead singer/songwriter Greg Dulli's tortured, angst-ridden tales of broken relationships and self-loathing. The Afghan Whigs were one of the few alternative bands around in the late '90s to acknowledge R&B, attempting to create a fusion of soul and post-punk. The Afghan Whigs were formed when the members -- vocalist/rhythm guitarist Greg Dulli, bassist John Curley, lead guitarist Rick McCollum, and drummer Steve Earle -- were attending the University of Cincinnati. Dulli, who was raised in Hamilton, Ohio, was studying film at the university, where he met fellow students McCollum and Earle. Unlike the rest of the band, Curley didn't attend the University of Cincinnati. He arrived in the city to intern as a photographer at The Cincinnati Enquirer, which his father -- who published USA Today -- arranged for him; for the next few years, Curley continued to shoot pictures for the paper, quitting only when the band's schedule became too busy for him to work both jobs. Dulli happened to meet Curley when visiting a friend's apartment building. Eventually, the pair formed the Afghan Whigs in 1986, along with McCollum and Earle. In 1988, the Afghan Whigs released their debut album, Big Top Halloween, on their independent record label, Ultrasuede. The album received good word-of-mouth in underground music publications and college radio. A copy of the record worked its way to the influential Seattle-based independent record label Sub Pop, and the label arranged for the Whigs to release a one-off single. The single led to a full-blown record contract with Sub Pop. Up in It, their first Sub Pop album, was released in 1990. For the next two years, the Afghan Whigs toured America consistently, occasionally heading over to Europe and England. In 1992, their third album, Congregation, was released to very positive reviews. After its release, the band was courted by a number of major labels. The band released one more record on Sub Pop, an EP of soul and R&B covers called Uptown Avondale, and signed to Elektra Records. Gentlemen, the band's major-label debut, was released to considerable critical acclaim in the fall of 1993. "Debonair," the first single pulled from the album, received major play from MTV, and all of the reviews were positive. Nevertheless, the band wasn't able to ascend past cult status and all the critical praise even engendered a backlash, most notably in the form of an anti-Whigs fanzine called Fat Greg Dulli. In the summer of 1994, the Whigs released the What Jail Is Like EP to coincide with their American tour. Upon the completion of their international tour in the fall of 1994, the Whigs took an extended break. Steve Earle left the band in the spring of 1995; he was replaced by Paul Buchignani, just before the group entered the studio to record its fifth album. Black Love, the Whigs' second album for Elektra, was released in the spring of 1996. Again, the album received positive reviews but the band failed to break out of its cult status. 1965, their first effort for new label Columbia, followed two years later. However, with the bandmembers living in different states, it would prove to be their last; in February of 2001, the band called it quits, citing geographical separation. In 2006, the band reunited for a brief recording session for the release of the best-of compilation Unbreakable: A Retrospective 1990-2006, which featured two newly recorded tracks: "I'm a Soldier" and "Magazine." With the members going their separate ways once again, the future of the Whigs was once again put on hold until 2011. In a surprise announcement from British festival organizers All Tomorrow's Parties, it was revealed that the band would headline ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror festival at London's Alexandra Palace in May 2012. Kicking off a world tour that would span 2012 and 2013, the original lineup -- minus drummer Steve Earle -- returned with gusto. At the beginning of 2014 the group members announced that they had recorded their first album in some 16 years and had returned to the label that had originally launched them, Sub Pop. Do to the Beast was slated for an April 2014 release, and featured a new lineup of the band. Greg Dulli and John Curley were the only original members to return for Do to the Beast, while their accompanists included guitarist Dave Rosser (the Twilight Singers, the Gutter Twins), multi-instrumentalist Mark McGuire (Emeralds), bassist Jon Skibic (Gigolo Aunts, the Twilight Singers), drummer Cully Symington (Okkervil River, Shearwater), and string player Rick Nelson (St. Vincent, Polyphonic Spree). A subsequent concert tour took the new Whigs to major venues in the United States and Europe, including a major spot at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. In October 2014, the band capped off the year with a deluxe reissue of Gentlemen, expanded to a two-disc set with the addition of B-sides, unreleased demos, and live tracks.
The Afghan Whigs are an American rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally active from 1986 to 2001, they have since reformed. The group with core members Greg Dulli (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick McCollum (lead guitar), and John Curley (bass) rose up around the grunge movement, evolving from a garage band in the vein of the Replacements to incorporate more R&B and soul influences into their sound and image. After releasing their first album independently in 1988, the band signed to the Seattle-based label Sub Pop. They released their major-label debut and fourth album, Gentlemen, in 1993. Pitchfork described them as "one of the few alt-bands to flourish on a major label" in the 1990s.nDulli frequently claimed in interviews that the band would never get back together following their dissolution in 2001 but the group announced in December 2011 that they would reunite.
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