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Afghan Whigs

The Afghan Whigs are an American soul-influenced alternative rock band of the 1990s. While they achieved moderate success, Rolling Stone described the band as spending “the bulk of their career on the brink of stardom”—they’ve “never quite broken beyond a substantial legion of devotees enamored of their thinly veiled sleaze.”

Greg Dulli (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick McCollum (lead guitar), John Curley (bass), and Steve Earle (drums — not to be confused with country musician Steve Earle) formed the band in Cincinnati in 1986. Their 1988 debut album Big Top Halloween on their independent record label called Ultrasuede created a buzz in the independent music community, and the band soon signed to Sub Pop of Seattle in 1989, the first non-local band to do so. In 1990, Up in It was released; the blistering pace and yowling, effects-heavy guitars on tracks like “White Trash Party” gave no hint of the stylistic about-face to come. With the critically acclaimed 1992 album Congregation and a covers EP, Uptown Avondale, the Whigs adopted what became their signature sound: mid-tempo songs in minor keys complemented by gloomy angst-ridden lyrics.

The Afghan Whigs then signed to a major label, Elektra Records, and released another critically acclaimed album, Gentlemen that failed to break the band into the mainstream, though it spawned the minor hits “Debonair” and “Gentlemen”. They contributed “Fountain and Fairfax” to the soundtrack for the television series My So-Called Life in 1994.

For the next few years, despite personnel problems interfering with recording and touring, the band released two more albums – Black Love in 1996 (with Paul Buchignani taking over drumming duties) and 1965 in 1998 (with Michael Horrigan replacing Buchignani) on Columbia Records – before they broke up in 2001.

In 1994, Greg Dulli was a lead vocalist in the Backbeat Band, an alternative-rock supergroup that recorded the soundtrack to the Beatles biopic, Backbeat_. Other members of the Backbeat Band were Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Don Fleming (Gumball), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, later Foo Fighters) and Dave Pirner (Soul AsylumAsylum). The Backbeat soundtrack was produced by Don Was.

In 1996, Greg Dulli served as executive producer for the soundtrack for the Ted Demme film Beautiful Girls. The Afghan Whigs appeared in the film as a bar band and contributed the Frederick Knight cover “Be For Real” and the Barry White cover “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” to the soundtrack.

In 2006, according to Pitchfork Media, The Afghan Whigs have temporarily reunited. According to the Twilight Singers website, the most recent lineup is recording new material for a Rhino Records retrospective called Unbreakable.

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