David Browne
March 22, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Black Love

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a C

The most heartbreaking sound in the world is that of a rock band that starts taking itself very seriously. Sadly, this fate seems to have befallen the Afghan Whigs. Their 1993 Gentlemen album was a stunning take on modern relationships from the point of view of a self-admitted heel (singer-guitarist Greg Dulli), with music as pent up as Dulli’s words. Black Love is a major disappointment. Cluttered with strings and blaxploitation-movie keyboards, it feels as strained as the band’s soul remakes in Beautiful Girls. Listening to it is akin to walking against an intensely driving rainstorm. Bellowing above the din and lashing out at various lovers and enemies, Dulli comes off bitter and resentful — valid emotions that turn ugly and oppressive unless leavened with some humor or insight. Sadly, there’s none here. Instead, Dulli resorts to contrived rock-noir chronicles like the couple on the run in ”Going to Town.” ”Tonight tonight, I say goodbye/To everything that thrills me,” Dulli sings in anguish. The feeling is, very regretfully, mutual.

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