The Afghan Whigs

Honky's Ladder

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The rock & roll equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino film, "Honky's Ladder" is the Afghan Whigs' over the top ode to the blaxploitation films and soundtracks of the early '70s -- Greg Dulli, never shy about his love of black music and culture, is in full-on badass pimp mode here, delivering lyrics that portray the kind of fevered urban crime milieu only a white boy would invent. "Blame, Etc.," also from the Black Love LP, fares better -- though its arrangement apes Curtis Mayfield's landmark Superfly score, Dulli's bleak tale of labyrinthine lust is painfully human, and his raw, wounded vocals are searingly convincing. The two exclusive tracks are both telling: the Wizard of Oz chestnut "If I Only Had a Heart" gets a piano jazz treatment and a smoky, world-weary Dulli vocal that reveals real sadness beneath the myriad layers of lechery. And the slinky cover of the TLC smash "Creep" proves that even if Dulli doesn't possess a heart, he at least has a brain -- albeit in his pants.

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