Out There

The Devil and Greg Dulli
Black Love
Afghan Whigs
Elektra Records

Greg Dulli fancies himself rock and roll's playboy, the homely dude transformed into a soul-singing sex god whenever he plugs in his guitar and stands in front of a video camera. He venerates his indiscretions, glamorizes the lifestyle of the womanizer, and apologizes for nothing. Dulli, more so than any of his contemporaries, inhabits the guise of rock star like an actor plays a role, and 1993's Gentleman was his biggest and baddest part to date: He literally became the unrepentant, self-loathing sumbitch who had "a dick for a brain" until it was impossible to extricate character from creator.

Dulli is one conflicted white boy--desperate to be Barry White or Diana Ross, intent upon being a soul singer fronting a rock-and-roll band. Hence the bleak and unrelenting Black Love, its title a double entendre surely meant to evoke soul music and an ardor so flagitious it consumes its lovers. Dulli isn't just a prick this time around; he's the devil himself, luring his partners into relationships so doomed they become crime scenes after the fact. But it's all "me, me, me" with this guy: "Do you think I'm beautiful? Do you think I'm evil?" he wonders on "Crime Scene Part One"; "Am I vain? Have I shame?" he asks six songs later. Hey, tough guy, what about me?

Welcome to the new generation of rock star who pretend to be sensitive by letting you know they're real assholes, but still swing a guitar like it was their putz and gulp down a hard riff like it were an aphrodisiac: "Got you where I want you, motherfucker," Dulli sneeringly brags in "Honky's Ladder," speaking to his lover or maybe to himself, before threatening, "If you tell me, 'Don't get mixed up with the devil,' that's exactly what I'm going to do." Dulli's a real badass, all right: He seduces his women by calling them "baby," promises them love then gives them betrayal, then explains away his offense by claiming he loves too much--himself, that is, so rarely does he show genuine compassion toward his women: "If I go bad from time to time," he justifies on "Faded," "Love to love but love is not my only crime."

The other Whigs are only peripheral characters in this mindfuck, providing a nominal soundtrack to this one-man drama. Unlike Gentlemen, which fleshed out the black heart inside its unforgiving lyrics, Black Soul adds no new dimension, offers nothing unfamiliar, gives nothing and gets nothing in return. Dulli chews the scenery and knocks over the props, howling every breath and barking every sweet nothing. He wants to burn down the town, but he keeps forgetting to bring the matches.

--Robert Wilonsky


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