The Afghan Wigs
Girls Against Boys

I'm a heterosexual male, wanna make every woman I see...

The quote above comes from an Odds song, who I only know of from a video that Beavis and Butthead liked, but the quotation fits these boys like a skintight rubber.... Oh, never mind. The Afghan Wigs and Girls Against Boys perform what I'd like to coin "sophisticated cock rock." Both are loud and intense hard rock bands that aren't punk and aren't metal, which is generally the type of hard rock I prefer since by this juncture both punk and metal are horribly cliched. Both are pretty damn tuneless, too. I almost always prefer tuneful hard rock to tuneless hard rock, but hard rock is one genre where tunelessness doesn't automatically disqualify worthwhile musicality - look at Led Zeppelin or the Stooges. On the flip side, both are pretty damn intelligent, too, both musically and lyric-wise, which is why I called this sophisticated cock rock. Unsophisticated cock rock would include AC/DC and Bad Company (one of which I actually happen to like some of their stuff). '90s alternative they are, also, which means that they are heavy on the '70s influences (distinguishable from '80s alternative, which was heavy on the '60s influences, and '70s alternative, which was called punk rock and was "Rock Around the Clock" with more distortion). The Afghan Wigs are pretty blatantly misogynistic in most of their songs, which is fun when you're pissed off at your girlfriend, and I don't know what the hell Girls Against Boys are singing about half the time. It's not the lyrics primarily that I am assigning these two bands their designation for, however - it's the sound, which is quite aggressive. And the fact that, to my knowledge, neither band has very many female fans.

The Afghan Wigs: Congregation (1992) **1/2

Gregg Dulli's this fucked up Cincinatti charmer who likes to drink, seduce lots of women, and is rather confused about his racial identity. That is, he's another white boy fascinated by black people, but he's not black, to his regret. The cover ought to clue you in: a naked black mother embracing a naked white baby. Add the fact that Dulli has a great screaming voice but tends to oversing and fronts a band whose tough sound doesn't keep up with their weak songwriting allows me to identify Dulli as the Eric Burdon of the '90s. The band plays a sort of funky grunge that folks say is influenced by the Replacements, but that's hard for me to spot. Anyway, the music isn't why you're here, anyway, it's the lyrics; the band is competent and can play their instruments very well (a rarity in indie-rock), but nothing special. All of these songs seem to concern a broken, dysfunctional relationship, with repeated references to kicking some drug habit that you've backslid on. The vibe is extremely obsessive, what I'd like to refer to as "stalker rock". However, overkill is overkill, which Dulli tends to have a problem with, and by the end of this record, it's a relief to not have to deal with a manic-depressive's ranting about his emotional problems anymore. There isn't enough melodic and textual variety to keep me interested, either, though this record does have its moments. The opener, "I'm Her Slave" rocks, as does the warped title track, which sounds like a churchful of holy rollers gone crazy on noise. The final, unlisted track is the real keeper, though: full of self-loathing, Dulli asks some woman to come over and "Don't forget the alcohol," which he screams over and over in wounded self-pity.

The Afghan Wigs: Gentlemen (1993) ***

On the cover this time are a prepubescent boy and girl on a bed who look like they've just had sex; the boy is sitting on the side of the bed and gazing off in the distance, as if he's brooding over some mistake he made in this relationship. Most acolytes of the Wigs claim this as their masterpiece, but to my ears it's a definite improvement over the previous album, but not a drastic one. The band plays a bit better, with a bit more punch and variety, but the songwriting's still at a standstill. The balladic material contains no more than the flattest of melodies if there's any melody at all, which makes the balladic material useless. Since Dulli can't write real melodies, he smartly goes for a more cinematic approach, emphasizing the dramatic qualities of his lyrics with equally melodramatic music and singing. He wants nothing more than to be a '70s soul man, but he sounds like John Lennon locked into primal scream mode. Again, the lyrics all deal with some dysfunctional relationship, but they've improved to a point where I can enjoy this album for the lyrics alone. The best are from "Be Sweet": "I got dick for a brain/And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you". The best song is the great "What Jail is Like," which concerns a woman who won't leave your side no matter what you do: "You think I'm scared of girls/Well maybe but I'm not afraid of you." Lines that a man can identify with, or what? How about "She wants love, and I still want to fuck"? Brutal, unpleasant honesty are the Afghans' strength, but after a while this melodrama and self-pity get wearying, especially given the band's limited musical vocabulary.

Girls Against Boys: House of GVSB (1996) ***1/2

I believe a couple of these guys used to be in Fugazi or are still in Fugazi as the rhythm section, and it sounds like it. However, unlike Fugazi, who I find to be prog-punk bores, these dudes make music that sounds sexy and alive. The main reference point, however, seems to be the Gang of Four's abrasive, warped take on punk-funk. Now, I know what you're thinking, funk-punk's that corny stuff that corny bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers play with lots of dumb poppin' bass licks and dumb partytime hippie chorusii. Nope, this ain't that. This is '90s, Americanized post-punk, which means it's dark, challenging, aggressive, and sinister. Girls Against Boys have two bass players, but believe me none of these bass lines are corny Bootsy popcorn lifts. It's quite interesting, and quite original, too - who says bands can't find new signature sounds in the '90s, that we're forever condemned to cloning the past? For that fact alone I'm willing to assign Girls Against Boys a good grade. Girls Against Boys are group of lads who like drones, cash machines, disco, astrology (as long as it's used for its proper purpose, which is to pick up chicks, "Hey baby, what's your sign?"), dropping place names, car crashes, acting tough, and the art of the score, if you know what I mean (and you most certainly do). My favorite song is "Crash 17 (X-Rated Car)" because it sounds like danceable Joy Division. Most of this album is rather danceable, in a head-banging way: this is what Fugazi should ideally sound like, but have always been too programmatic and Red Guard-ish to succeed at. Girls Against Boys are punks in their late 20s who are into disco, and this is a sort of rock disco: not disco as silky seduction, but disco as an aggressive dry hump. Not for everybody, since there's very little melody, but it is interesting.

Post Your Comments

If I Were Going