Twenty-six years down the line, bands simply aren’t supposed to be making the most thrilling music of their lives. Yet that’s precisely what the Afghan Whigs have done with How Do You Burn?, their first studio album in five years.
How Do You Burn? follows the widely acclaimed records they’ve made since re-grouping in 2012, Do To The Beast (2014) and In Spades (2017). How Do You Burn? picks up the baton laid down by each of those records and runs it to the horizon. Just one striking aspect of the new record is the sheer scale of its sound: kaleidoscopic, multi-layered and widescreen. Then there is Greg Dulli, as swaggering, enigmatic and darkly charismatic as ever, and singing up a storm.
For his supporting cast, Dulli called upon several serial collaborators including the late Mark Lanegan, who was a regular in Dulli’s Twilight Singers, a partner in The Gutter Twins and a close friend. Lanegan makes his Afghan Whigs debut singing backup vocals on two tracks. “It was Mark who named the album,” Dulli remarked.
Susan Marshall, who sang on the Whigs album 1965, returns to the fray for “Catch A Colt,” one of the album’s standout tracks, loose-limbed like Some Girls-era Rolling Stones and with the liquid polyrhythms of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.
Then there’s Marcy Mays, lead vocalist on “My Curse”, the torch-song highlight of 1993’s seminal Gentlemen album, reprising her role here on the celestial “Domino And Jimmy,” playing Stevie Nicks to Dulli’s Lindsey Buckingham.
The Afghan Whigs - Dulli, Curley, Nelson, Keeler and with Christopher Thorn now joining the band on guitar - will take How Do You Burn? out on the road. Beyond that, says Dulli, their future is gloriously wide open.