Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen by Gendron Bob

Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen by Gendron Bob

Author:Gendron, Bob
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing
Published: 2008-04-14T16:00:00+00:00

V. Ladies & Gentlemen

The thematic concept executed in both the music and on the cover of Gentlemen is followed through in the album’s CD booklet. Its first two pages resemble the beginning of a movie script; the paragraph layout of the songs functions as a table of contents. On the opposing page, the band’s name and album tide stand alone, making it clear that the listener is about to enter an isolated world. Of the subsequent seven pages, five are given over to lyrics and two to photographs, one of the band at the comer of 12th and Jackson in downtown Cincinnati, the other of an oval-encased shadowy figure against a wall. The inside back page rolls the credits and the last page depicts just the little boy, again sitting on a bed, shot from a side angle and looking even sadder.

Repeating an idea first established on Uptown Avondale, the credits again read like those of a film: “Played by John Curley, Greg Dulli, Steve Earle and Rick McCollum. Greg sang. Shot on location in Memphis, TN at Ardent Studios, May—June 1993. Except ‘If I Were Going’ shot April 1993 at Ultrasuede, Cincinnati, OH. Produced by Greg Dulli.”

Thus, the vérité feel carries through in the lyrics, production, design, photography, and music. Working in harmony with urgency, intensity, sophistication, self-confidence, and astonishing hooks, the provocative naturalism and song-cycle sequence beget an unbreakable cohesiveness that, like all great music, permits Gentlemen to achieve the most elusive distinction of all honors: timelessness.

“If I Were Going”

Smothering from the second it begins, “If I Were Going” never gives the listener a chance to breathe. A tribal drumbeat blends in with the distorted murmur of the Roebling Bridge. The queasy sonic combination signifies the gateway to an abyss, the entrance to a maze. As in Goldin’s photo, we know something here isn’t right. Ominous guitar chords rattle and lather up the tension.

As soon as Dulli opens his mouth, it’s immediately apparent that his character is in a weakened defensible position. He needs to plot out in advance how he’s going to handle “it”—an obviously uncomfortable state of affairs—with his partner. Rather than feeling joy over the impending encounter, he’s wracked with nausea and dread. Feigning ignorance isn’t an option; that tactic only adds to the discomfort and dredges up the past, leading to further argumentative conversation. So he broods, opting for a devious plan based on the fact that she’s still buying the words that come out of his mouth. Or so he thinks.

Lies and deceit have become weapons of choice. Dulli can’t distinguish the fabrication from the facts. He’s lost all sense of his identity. He’s sick of it all, sick of himself, but he’s in so deep, he’s going to press on. There’s no escaping the monster. It has invaded the heart, the head, the home. It’s not visible or physical. Like an all-consuming parasite, it eats the host alive. There is no cure. There is no escape. There is no hope.

Curley’s single bass notes toll like a death knell.


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