on October 15, 2005
This is about as emotionally intense as it gets. Apart from Dylan's classic album "Blood on the Tracks," I can think of no other record that so perfectly encompasses the bitterness and beauty of heartbreak.
There's a venom that lines the music and lyrics, and everything is is almost masochistically brutal and occasionally just nasty. It's dirty and raw, and filled with an honesty that music rarely has the guts to even try to emote.
This is not some angst-ridden whining that typifies what music today offers up for expression. This is a portrait of the brutality that simultaneously tortures and enriches relationships. Loaded with malice, bitterness, insight, guilt, pennance, and love, Gentlemen is a seminal work that feels as though it's always been there. It's a soundtrack to your pain, and it aggressively forces you to confront yourself. As another reviewer put it, this album is something of a confessional, and it is hard to not identify with it, as harrowing as it can be to do so.
When Sub Pop was making it's big push, the two bands they were placing their bets on were The Afghan Whigs and Nirvana. I guess it's obvious that Nirvana "won" that contest, and while there are commonalities between the bands (and I would say that the Whigs deserve a bit more public acclaim than they have recieved), Nirvana never created anything as naked as this album. There's nothing obtuse about this; it's as straight forward and 'in your face' as rock music can be.
If you're already a fan, I would also recommend hunting down the "What Jail is Like EP," which features some of the best cover songs ever... namely the cover of The Assponies "Mr. Superlove;" which belongs up there alongside the soaring accomplishments of Gentlemen.
on May 9, 2008
Wow, the only thing more difficult than listening to this record is writing a review.
A little history.... I saw the title song on MTV's 120 minutes. It was good. I heard the song on the radio and it was good. Just about every song on this CD is "good." The point being, when you listen to it as a whole, each song becomes GREAT. "Gentlemen" and "Debonair" were minor hits, and if you heard those songs and they sounded "o.k.", trust me when I say that after to listening to CD a few times you will appreciate those minor hits 10 fold.
I bought this CD a few months ago after reading the reviews on Amazon.com. I was blown away. I really haven't seen such passionate reviews for any record on Amazon.com. Not even the Beatles have any 5 star studio recordings. Where the listeners/reviewers duped? Hardly.
I have now been obsessed with this CD for 2 years. Words can not describe the pain, torment and beauty of this CD. This is not a CD to listen to while drinking beers and playing pool with your buddies. This is a solitary CD, to be listened to while sitting in a chair, with a glass of Scotch, and giving it your full attention. No books or magazines allowed. Just you and your attention, please. Only then will you truly understand the genius of this record.
This CD is all about love. A love that lasted a third of Greg Dulli's life. A love that ended. Greg is in horrific pain, and it is obvious. To write songs that simply say "You are a b_tch and I hate you" would be way too simple. This is not that type of record. Greg accepts responsibility for his failings. The part that is really scary is that you and I have those same traits and thus, the same failings. To use a tired cliche, Greg points the finger at the female, and simultaneously points three fingers back at himself. And you and I have at least two of those three traits.
"Gentlemen" was the first song I heard. It was "ok" a few months ago, and yet now it is simply brilliant. I can honestly say I "get" that song perfectly when listened to with the rest of the CD. Every song here works... there is no filler. Even the instrumental at end works, like a warm bath after at hard day's work in a coal mine. The instrumental is needed after the emotional devastation caused by this record.
This is not a fun CD to listen to. In fact, Greg had another singer sing one of the songs because it was too painful for him. "My Curse" features Marcy Mays, and she is amazing. If you were wondering, there is a line where she talks about perfume that the other person is wearing. This is not a lesbian love song, it is a song written by Greg to a female that he could never sing in the studio because it was too painful. And if you go to youtube and see the live version of the song sung by Marcy, you will understand why.
My favorite song may by "What Jail is Like," but "Be Sweet" and "My Curse" are also among my favorites. "Favorite" meaning most painful, most like my own life, and most likely to make me cry.
People compare the Afghan Whigs to Nirvana. They were both on Sub Pop. "Nevermind" is brilliant, but it is not "Gentlemen." First, the lyrics on "Nevermind" can't even come close to "Gentlemen." There are no "an albino, a mosquito" lyrics on Gentlemen. This is not to bash Nirvana, but Gentlemen is so much deeper. Second, The Afghan Whigs are great musicians. If any of you play guitar, you know that "Nevermind" is a pretty simple album to play, so long as you know what a power chord is. Not so with "Gentlemen." The Afghan Whigs are real musicians, with a definitely soul influence. Heck, there are even pianos on this CD.
Well, I guess I've rambled for a long time. If you are still happily with your first girlfriend from 8th grade, then skip this CD. Get a Hanson or Lady Gaga record instead. But if you have been emotionally destroyed by the breakup of a relationship anytime in your life, then get this CD. You will understand it. It will speak to you. You will be amazed by it, just like 99% of all the others who have reviewed "Gentlemen."
And yes.....it really is that good.
on July 28, 2000
The pride of Ohio's River Mecca, the Whigs let it all hang out on this stellar SubPop (Nirvana, Mark Lanegan, Sprinkler) release. The unbelievable bravado of frontman Greg Dulli is matched only by the funkiest bandmates since Morris Day's The Time. Touchingly depraved running the gammut from drug abuse to sexual orneryness, this album has it all. An AP top 100 Alternative Album, this record is a must own for any serious devotee of indie style rock. One listen to the painful and truthful strains of "Be Sweet" or the addiction anthem "Fountain and Fairfax" and anyone who has been out all night in the last decade will be sold. The Whigs clearly studied the Rolling Stones, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, Husker Du and Gang of Four because never has their been a rag tag bunch of loveable hooligans to find the funk, blues, alt-rock and timing of this band. And they love fellow Cincinnati bad-boy Pete Rose, the only person in Ohio who could probably outlast 'em at the bar of your local strip club. An amazing record. Check out some of their other stellar releases, including "Congregation", "Up In It", "1965" and the rocking "Black Love."
on July 14, 2002
You must own this. There are few things in this world as rare and beautiful as the Afghan Whigs, and this album portrays the band in its finest moment. So tight, loud, passionate and absolutely, painfully brilliant, this was one of the top albums of the 1990s. From Greg Dulli's impassioned vocals and swaggering, cocky lyrics, to the swirling dervish guitar/bass/drums combo of Curley, McCollom and Earle, "Gentlemen" is by far the most modern testament to the torturous pain of relationships gone bad. The magnificent "My Curse," with Dulli's lyrics and Marcy Mays' cameo vocals, softens the machismo at the disc's climax, but the boys triumphantly come back with the searing "Now You Know," placing blame where it's due and twisting the post-break-up knife deeper. To smooth things over, Greg lends his voice to the classic "I keep coming back." Mere words can't describe the brilliance of "Gentlemen." Just buy it. Then go buy "Black Love," the disc that followed this one. And listen to it loud.
on January 8, 2003
Gentlemen, the Afghan Whigs' pinnacle record, remains one of the most solid albums of the `90s. The quartet is in high form, almost flawlessly, and produces a collection of songs that stir, shock, calm, and amaze from start to finish.
I could rant and rave, but I won't. I'll point out some of the best tracks, though...
"If I Were Going" is a great opening tune, building up to a emotional high-point before launching into the next track, the powerful title track. "Be Sweet" is a signature Whigs song, moving from sublime verse to blistering chorus, all with a slight R&B sock to the jaw. "What Jail is Like" is mind-blowing (with a great feedback/piano combo), and "My Curse" (with Scrawl's Marcy Mays on vocals) is raw enough to crack the CD case. Finally, the cover of Tyrone Davis' "I Keep Coming Back" is simply stunning.
Are there any downsides? A few, but their so unnoticable that it really won't matter. For some reason, the closing instrumental doesn't send the album out well (even though it's a fine song as is). This minor error is quickly forgotten, though, by the everything else that's done well on the album.
If you want to own one of the most underrated, amazing records of the past decade, pick this up. You won't be disappointed.
on September 25, 2007
A previous reviewer nailed this album perfectly: "Gentlemen" belongs in the same league as masterpieces such as "Blood On The Tracks" and "Tonight's The Night."
A lot of people will read this, and they'll decide it's crazy talk. In fact, it probably IS crazy talk -- if you're reading a single review, or even just a handful of opinions.
Currently, however, there are around 60 reviews of "Gentlemen" here, spanning the better part of the past decade. And at some point, somehow, "crazy talk" earned an upgrade to "serious consensus": "Gentlemen" really is THAT good.
Consider also that today, nearly two decades after The Afghan Whigs recorded "Gentlemen," this record still sounds as if it could have been released last year -- or, for that matter, last week. Very few albums, classic or otherwise, avoid sounding dated after so many years -- yet another sign that "Gentlemen" deserves every bit of the praise heaped upon it here.
Of course, the praise heaped upon "Gentlemen" adds up to something quite unlike any other record of its era. Is it really possible that this nasty, mean-spirited, semi-obscure sucker punch of an album is the best of its decade and might even be the best of the entire post-punk period? Personally, I wouldn't want to push things quite that far -- but then again, I can't think of a better choice.
on January 4, 2002
When I purchased this album back in 1993, I wasn't sure what I'd be getting. Over 8 years later, I'm still not 100% sure what I got. That is the depth of meaning and passion that Greg Dulli and the Afghan Whigs put into this album. It is by far their strongest, most powerful effort.
The lyrics are...passionately disturbed. The songs reek of dysfunctional relationships, marred by substance abuse and physical violence. "What Jail Is Like" is a powerful description of being trapped between guilt and visceral pleasure. "Debonair," their minor MTV and radio hit off of this album, describes the dysfunctional roles that we take on in our relationships and the power that we can wield over one another. My personal favorite off of this album is "Fountain and Fairfax." "Fountain" is a painfully powerful song about lies and heroin addiction, about codependence and desire. It's lyrics are haunting and true.
The Afghan whigs struck gold with this album. It's a disturbed, mysterious piece from front to end. I highly recommend it.
on April 18, 1999
There's only one thing I can say that will give you an accurate idea of what this album was like:
I was 15 when I bought this in 1993, and if it's possible to lose your virginity to an album, then "Gentlemen" was my first. I can't recommend it more highly.
on December 7, 2014
Even 21 years later, this record still moves me. One of my all time favorite albums. Raw passion, love, deceit, human instinct, hatred, confusion, defiance, submission, and myriad of other heavy emotions are orchestrated within the music and melodies on Gentlemen. The coalescing of rock and soul, that has differentiated the Afghan Whigs from so many others in the same genre from the early 90's, has withstood the test of time. Dulli's forceful and even manipulative lyrics and vocals tie up this album as a story. These songs can stand on their own, but the album is not simply a collection of tracks. There lies a plot that is so pressing, sad and scary that you cannot help but listen to it all.
on June 30, 2004
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.