Song of the Day: The Afghan Whigs – Algiers

photo by Piper Ferguson

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Algiers” by The Afghan Whigs from the 2014 album Do To The Beast on Sub Pop.

The Afghan Whigs – Algiers (MP3)

Emerging from Cincinnati, Ohio, just as alternative rock was becoming a national phenomena, The Afghan Whigs always stood apart from their contemporaries. As punk was enthroned as the era’s primary influence, the band regularly covered R&B classics in their sets. When flannel was in vogue, they wore finely tailored suits. And as self-loathing reigned as every frontman’s go-to approach, frontman Greg Dulli brought a series of magnetically destructive characters to life in a fashion that made moral ambiguity fascinating long before Christopher Nolan even made his first film. 1993’s masterful Gentlemen introduced the band to a wider audience in a post-Nirvana landscape, and 1996’s Black Love confirmed Dulli’s reputation as one of the most singular songwriters of his generation. However, after the tour behind 1998’s 1965, Dulli, bassist John Curley, and guitarist Rick McCollum decided to call time on the band. Dulli remained active as the leader of The Twilight Singers, pairing up with longtime collaborator Mark Lanegan as The Gutter Twins, and pursuing an intermittent solo career before reuniting the band for a series of shows in 2012.

A 2013 SXSW show with Usher led Dulli and Curley to begin work on a new Afghan Whigs album entitled Do to the Beast, their first since 1998 and first without McCollum, who recently departed the band due to “personal issues”. Dulli’s penchant for warping famously romantic musical hallmarks returns on “Algiers”, an airy desperado confession laid over a “Be My Baby” beat. Dulli has noted the influence of “the specter of mortality” on the album, and as Dulli pines for his lover in his final hours (“Heavenly demons outside my window/sent here to see me outside this world”), he sounds the most vulnerable he’s been since The Twilight Singers’ 2002 similarly-themed opus Blackberry Belle. But that’s a good thing – Dulli spent most of the Whigs’ original run writing from the perspective of characters who were often heading towards death, but rarely acknowledged it as a reality, and as his protagonist in “Algiers” prepares to cross over to the other side, he shows that the Afghan Whigs still demand the attention they requested in 1993.

The Afghan Whigs will kick off the tour behind Do to the Beast with a pair of shows at Coachella, before heading up the West Coast to play the Showbox at the Market on Tuesday, April 15th. Furthermore, they’ll be live on KEXP that day at 11AM. Get tickets and more info about that 21+ show here, keep a tab on the band’s website and Facebook, and watch the spaghetti western-style video for “Algiers” below.

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