ma:- Afghani black
Greg Dulli ponders the meaning behind his new album. Alastair Mabbot earwhigs.
You know that these things really shouldn’t bother you any more. But sometimes you can‘t help but be nagged by matters you should have got over years ago. Like why it should be that bands like. say. Hole. Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters are hoovering up platinum discs while Cincinatti's truly superior Afghan Whigs get by on cult acclaim?
For a man who‘s as hung over as he claims to be. Whigs frontman anti former filtn student Greg Dulli ('pronounced ‘dooley‘) is disgustingly bushy-tailed and disconcertingly agreeable. He is also totally unconcemed about measuring the pi oftle of his hand against the kings of ‘ai'ternative' rock.
‘l'n my opinion. l‘vc had as much suc cess and recognition as I need.‘ he says. breezily. ‘lfl have satisfied mys elf. if I have done work that I‘m prou d of. that is still the best for me. If we s old a million records. would I be psycl ied‘.’ Sure. But we've managed to sell q uite a respectable amount of recorc‘s. and I believe we have respect - respec t is more important to me than recognition and sales figures.‘
The A fghan Whigs make music that‘s passionate and intense in a way that young 11 ten with guitars all too rarely know ho w to these days. The Whigs understar \d that there‘s more to reaching :1 peak than just strumming your guita rs harder (though. Lord knows. the y can do that with the best of them). and in the course of live albums. they‘ve evc -lved a completely distinctive s pikey rock style of their own which is rooted without being rootsy.
The band‘s uarly releases were on Sub
Pop. but they had little in common. : stylistically or geographically. with the 1 rest of the label's proto-grnnge roster (which included lvludhoney. Tad and pre-(iieffen Nirvana). Dulli. whose lirst ‘real visceral‘ reaction to music was hearing the Jackson Five's ‘I Want You Back' at live years old. pegs his current favourite listening as ‘soothing. seductive. sexy" Sub Pop signing Pigeonhead and 70s soul throwback D‘Angelo. And. through some kind of subtle osmosis. the Whigs have managed to work their love of soul music into their style without taking on board any of its cliches. They paid homage to those roots on Uplmwi Arvin/ale. a ‘deconstruction of R & B classics we like‘ which bore scant resemblance to the originals.
Black Love is the followup to the classic Gentlemen. which showed up in many end-of—the-year polls in 1993, It's
a heavy record. in manv senses of the word. Sometimes played with full-on attack. at others rendered more wistfully. Blut'k [.me is tinged with feelings of loss and betrayal.
Which. on a whim. compels me to :lredge up Elvis Costello‘s eons—old ‘the only emotions I can understand are
; revenge and guilt' quote and ask Dulli ; what. as a songwriter. his version of
that statement would be. He sidesteps
. the question a bit. but at least we do i start to get somewhere.
‘I think maybe what he meant is that
‘ revenge and guilt are probably the
things he most ponders. (iuilt and
recrimination and . . . uh. I think the
emotions you tend to feel closest to are the ones that are most mysterious to you. Lust. itnpulsion. compulsion. revenge. envy. things like that you can't ptit your linger on. That whole lizard part of your brain just goes and does its
There’s never a Dulli day for the Afghan Whigs
3 thing and the other side of your brain is 2 going. ”l)on‘t do that. it's bad?" ‘
And once Dulli‘s engaged in these ‘dialogues with mysell'. and a song has
emerged. does he feel like he‘s got
; things sorted out in his head'.’
‘.\'o. sometimes I don’t even know
7 what I‘m writing until later on. Since we've given the record to the record company and it‘s been circulated and i I'm having to answer for it now. I'm i finding things out every day. Someone will pose a question to me and ill be i like, "Wow. l never looked at it that
'l way." So it's kind of a constant
l discovery process for me all the way i
down the line. Sometimes. there are songs from our other albums that l 1 would have this epiphany about on stage while I was singing them. “Oh? 3 So that's what it's about?“ ' i The dig/tun it'll/"es /)/u_\' The Garage. (i/(ts‘guw on Tue /‘/.
[IMME— BUIgati'ia calling Earth
It, as has been said, all arts aspire to the condition of music, and if the human voice is capable of the most profound musical e xpression, then the Bulgarian State Female Choir must be considered one of tine world’s most sublime artistic experiences. Hair-raising six-part harmony, Incredibly precise blood-stopping dissonance, startling \tocal swoops, shouts and dynamics, and an astonishing range of vocal timbres all contribute to a musical experience that can sometimes see in not of this Established in post-war Sofia, the choir members are all se Iected from the best traditional singers from all comers of the nation, and the choir’s music is based on the natiional and regional folk songs in sophisticated
34 The List 8-21 Mar 1996
arrangements by the founder, Philip Koutev, and the nation’s greatest composers, among them Petar Lyondev, Krasimir Kyurkchiyski and Nikolai Kaufman.
While Bulgarian women tend to be the singers, the Choir brings a quartet of male traditional instrumentalists who perform in smaller groups, and with some of the vocal soloists.
As generations of folk music scholars from England’s A. L. Lloyd to Planxty’s Andy Irvine have discovered, Bulgaria is phenomenally rich in instrumental music and song. The various, and often mountainous regions such as Shope, Bhodope, Pirin and Thrace have well defined styles and rhythms, and over the centuries the traditions have weathered successive migrations, invasions and domination, yet curiously, while giving ‘the sense of a peasant culture in a time-warp, have incorporated elements from all these cultures but held on to an elemental, open-
throated singing style and a highly
modal, ancient sense of untempered tonality.
The startlineg beautiful shock to Western ears is, however, to hear how incredibly modern, adventurous and confident the choir’s music is. The
Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares: unmissable
5N0 chorus should all go along to listen. linmissable. (Norman Chalmers) Le Mystere Des Vaix Bulgares ( The Bulgarian State Television Female Choir) play Edinburgh ’5 Festival Theatre on Man 11.