The Whigs are one of those groups that takes some getting used to. At least they did for me. The music is so unlike the other stuff that finds its way into the mainstream. Not that this group ever really did. The title track on this album did peak its head into the mainstream for a short time, and then the Afghan Whigs sunk back into obscurity, sadly. It makes sense when you think about it. The Whigs lacked a lot of the traits that make for superstardom, great singing, catchy hooks, and simple chord progressions over 4/4 beats, to name a few.
I think the main thing that made the Whigs so unique and compelling was the shuffling of the traditional instrumental roles for a rock band. The bass often flies around wherever it pleases with apparent disregard for the demands of the song. It takes more of a lead guitar role, sometimes even going against the grain of the music with atonal melodies. The guitars and keys therefore have to compensate by sticking tight with the rhythm. But they don't just stick to it, they embrace it, often with repetitive but piercing hooks that leave an ache in your heart. The drums are brilliant and complex, and Greg Dulli's voice is like a rusty knife. He can't really sing but somehow this only adds to what the music is conveying: the darker corners of Greg Dulli's life.
Gentlemen is the apex of the Afghan Whigs output, and it stands as one of my all time favorites. It's quite possibly the darkest most moving cd in my collection. Unfortunately, although the Afghan Whigs produced many albums, none but this one is consistently good. If you really like Gentlemen though, there are some gems here in there amongst their other material.