Big Top Halloween (1988)
The Whigs' first record, Big Top Halloween predates that band's relationship with Sub Pop. They produced the record themselves and only 2,000 copies were pressed, making it a rare find. A little messy and a touch cluttered, there are glimmers of the greatness that was to come from the band, but overall it's considered their worst album. Greg Dulli earned himself several comparisons to the Replacements' Paul Westerberg for this crunchy debut, despite the departure from country influences in their Midwestern rock sound and just a couple good tracks.
Up in It (1990)
The band's second album, Up in It is the Whigs' first with Sub Pop. It was released on cassette, vinyl, and CD, but only the latter included tracks from Big Top Halloween. The record is considered a major improvement from their debut, but still predates their biggest years of success. While their grungy counterparts were channeling Led Zeppelin, the Whigs were working on their power, precision, and timing and honing their understanding of R&B. All that work shows on Up in It, along with the darkness that is Dulli's mind. "Retarded," "White Trash Party," and "I Know Your Little Secret" are all tracks that reveal the frontman's disturbing predilections.
The liner notes on the Afghan Whigs' major label debut says it was "shot on location at Ardent Studios," and that isn't just a dose of Gen X irony. Equal parts grunge and soul, Gentlemen is cinematic in terms of scope and storytelling, a concept album that details the death of a relationship at the hands of a cheater. Brutal guitars and self-lacerating lyrics ("Ladies, let me tell you about myself / I've got a dick for a brain") abound.
Recorded in New Orleans, the Whigs' sixth album (and last before they went on a hiatus) incorporates more overt soul and jazz influences into the band's sound. As opposed to Gentlemen's self-loathing lyrics, 1965 is for the most part a funky, upbeat, and joyous — if sometimes a bit cheesy — celebration of sex. The album's second side is darker, like the come-down after a night of partying.