Up In It - (1990)
Though the Afghan Whigs were still about a year away from hitting the peak of their powers in the studio, their second album, 1990's Up in It, was a major improvement over their self-released debut, and it was their first recording to suggest that they would mature into one of the best American rock bands of the 1990s. As a songwriter, Greg Dulli was starting to really get in touch with his self-loathing, and "Retarded," "White Trash Party," and "I Know Your Little Secret" offer a powerful and sometimes disturbing look into one man's obsessions. Just as importantly, the band had finally learned to make the most of their musical muscle; Greg Dulli's nicotine-laced growl merged "heavy-alternative" bellow with a soul man's sense of phrasing, while the guitars of Dulli and Rick McCollum and the rhythm section of John Curley and Steve Earle managed to combine bruising power with a remarkable sense of drama and dynamics. While lots of bands riding the "grunge"/"alternative" bandwagon at the time owed an obvious debt to Led Zeppelin, the Afghan Whigs were one of the few that fully grasped not just their pomp and heaviness, but their precision, their timing, and their understanding of R&B. While it pales in comparison to what the Whigs would achieve on Congregation and Gentlemen, Up in It made it clear the Afghan Whigs had truly arrived, and would not be ignored.