It's been 16 years since we last heard a new record from Afghan Whigs, and Do the Beast makes it feel like more.
The band's new album doesn't sound very close to where they left off. In the many years since 1965, frontman Greg Dulli has been busy with other projects. Do the to Beast sounds like that work, particularly the Twilight Singers, has seeped in, and even saturated. The guitars have fewer melodies in the forefront and are instead thickly layered and entangled, to no less powerful effect. Album opener “Parked Outside” might be the closest the band gets to the old sound.
There's plenty of soul permeating Do the to Beast, unsurprisingly. This is a band that recently covered Frank Ocean's “Lovecrimes” and Mary Lyons' “See and Don't See,” and shared a stage with Usher to cover “Climax.” “Lost in the Woods” is a dark, threatening, piano-driven lament. “Algiers” injects some soul into the Wild West strumming and rattling.
"Algiers" is also one of many cinematic songs on this record. Again, no surprises here, since Afghan Whigs' last album was inspired by film noir. As far as any cohesive story or even style, the cinematics are neatly contained within each song. Dulli has said that the songs on Do to the Beast were created in pairs, but there are no immediately obvious connections. They might carry (or collide) nicely into each other, but you won't find any Part I and II.
Do to the Beast is as surprising as it is unsurprising. Moment to moment, there are interesting songwriting twists or arrangement choices, but we had to have known where the overall sound would land. You can miss the old Afghan Whigs, but you can't fault them for changing with age.