It's always special to be the first. Afghan Whigs, a Cincinnati based group that formed from the remnants of The Black Republicans, became the first non-Northwestern U.S. band to record for the Sub Pop label. That happy event followed the group's self-released debut, "Big Top Halloween," which came to the attention of Jonathan Poneman, the co-founder of legendary Seattle-based indie imprint.
The Afghan Whigs' first Sub-Pop album was '90's "Up In It." Two years later, "Congregation" and a covers EP "Uptown Avondale," arrived. The latter contained the Supremes' "Come See About Me" and Freda Payne's "Band Of Gold"). These efforts solidified the group's Punk Psychedelic Soul. While their videos "Conjure Me" and "Turn On The Water") garnered MTV play Afghan Whigs lacked the big breakthrough. So why not move to a major label? Well, okay.
Signed by Elektra Records, Afghan Whigs travelled to Nashville to record "Gentlemen," which proved to be the group's most successful album. Of note, the lead vocals on "My Curse" were sung by Marcy Mays because the lyrics documenting the dissolution of a relationship were so personal, that frontman Greg Dulli couldn't sing them.
In another unique turn, Dulli was the only musician other than Dave Grohl to appear on the debut Foo Fighters' album. Dulli played guitar on the song "X-Static." Both musicians were living in Seattle at the time and were friends. Grohl asked Dulli to play on a track and he did. Simple as that.
With the Afghan Whigs, Dulli showed a markedly darker side on the aptly named "Black Love." Recorded in Seattle and Memphis, the group's fifth album featured drummer Paul Buchignani, who had replaced original member Steve Earle.
Despite favorable reviews and landing an opening slot on Neil Young's tour, "Black Love" peaked at an unimpressive #79 on The Billboard Top 200. That lack of commercial success led to a dispute between the band and Elektra. End result, Afghan Whigs jumped ship and signed with another major label, Columbia, who released "1965" in '98. '65 was the year both Dulli and bassist John Curley were born.
After a show in Austin, Dulli was attacked and suffered a head injury that left him in a coma; two months after Dulli's recovery, Afghan Whigs were back on the road. But it wasn't long before the '01 announcement that the Afghan Whigs had broken up.
It was "an amicable split," according to Dulli that didn't necessarily represent an "official breakup." However, it was five years before Afghan Whigs reunited to record two new tracks for '07's "Unbreakable: A Retrospective 1990-2006." Then, it was another four years before Afghan Whigs started playing live shows again.
A '13 set at SXSW, where R&B's Usher made a surprise guest appearance, convinced the group to record again. But guitarist Rick McCollum bailed before the '14 set "Do To The Beast," dropped. The album represented Afghan Whigs first new material in 16 years and also marked the band's return to the Sub Pop roster.
1988 Big Top Halloween
1990 Up In It
1996 Black Love
2014 Do To The Beast
Despite the early 90's Sub-Pop pedigree, Afghan Whigs are more Punk than Grunge - with a slap-dash of Soul.