The Afghan Whigs – How Do You Burn? (Album Review)

One of the frontliners of Alternative Rock music during the genre’s early ’90s phase, The Afghan Whigs was formed in 1986, in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. It enjoyed the commercial limelight with the success of its fourth full-length, Gentlemen, led by the singles “Debonair” and the title-track. Through the ensuing, inevitable musical revolution, The Afghan Whigs went on to produce five more records, the latest of which is the recently unleashed How Do You Burn?

Released on September 9, 2022, via Royal Cream Records/BMG, How Do You Burn? was recorded amidst the COVID pandemic with The Afghan Whigs – founders Greg Dulli (lead vocals, guitar, keyboard) and John Curley (bass) with Rick G. Nelson (keyboards, strings, guitar, backing vocals), Patrick Keeler (drums), and Christopher Thorn (guitar) – working on it mostly a part from one another. 

It is their ninth overall studio album, as well as follow up to 2017’s In Spades, but also their first for the current decade. Consisting of ten tracks, it bursts aggressively with the Grunge assault of “I’ll Make You See God,” only to immediately relax the listener with the dreamy “The Getaway.” It then transitions smoothly with the cool swagger of “Catch a Colt,” a throwback to The Afghan Whigs’ ’90s sound. A further descent into slow eeriness then shapes up in the form of “Jyja.”

The piano-led “Please, Baby, Please” is a change of pace—soulful, rustic, solitary. This is then followed by “A Line of Shots”—something that resonates with The Afghan Whigs’ golden days. Another street lights–illuminated piano balladry ensues with “Domino and Jimmy.”

The Afghan Whigs steps on the accelerator and continues with the four-on-the-floor beat of “Take Me There”- a bit funky, a tad Post-Grunge. Then, after the subtly psychedelic, acoustic-guitar beauty “Concealer,” wrap up their new effort aptly with the blue-cold sway of “In Flames” which exude as melodramatic sensibilities of the likes of Coldplay, Embrace, Travis, and Budapest.

The Afghan Whigs may have been lumped with the key players of the Alternative Rock movement in the 1990s, but their music – a blend of Garage Rock, Post-Punk, R&B, and Soul -has always stood out among the rest. That all said, this new album is a welcome addition to the enduring band’s unique style. That is why Cryptic Rock gives How Do You Burn? 4 out of 5 stars.

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