“Cinematic” is a word that gets overused to describe things that aren’t really like cinema at all, but in the case of the music of the Afghan Whigs, it’s an apt term. The 90’s alt-rock heroes–who reunited after a 1999 breakup for a string of festival dates last year, and kept the revival going with the announcement of a new album due out this spring–have long had filmic ambitions. The band’s first major label contract, signed with Elektra Records in the early 90’s, included a clause requiring the label to fund a feature film that its frontman, Greg Dulli would direct; each of the band’s albums was credited as “shot on location” in whatever city the studio in which it was recorded was based; and the music itself, full of elaborate, evocative storytelling, earned that description.
The halcyon days of the music industry circa 1992 are a distant memory, of course, and the notion that a label deal for for an unproven rock band would include a promise to finance a feature film is laughable. (Dulli, for his part, never did direct his, either.) But the Afghan Whigs maintain their cinematic passions on the video for the first single from their forthcoming album, their first in fifteen years. “Algiers” is a moody, four-minute short film starring Dulli and set in a western town with the same name as the song.
In the video–directed by veteran music video director Phil Harder, who first worked with the Whigs in 1989–Dulli arrives in the town in the back seat of a vintage limousine. The townspeople, for unknown reasons, take unkindly to his presence, and, we learn via flashback this is a place in which he was on the receiving end of some violence. The video makes clear that he’s returned to enact revenge, and he does so–with an homage to Clint Eastwood’s brutal High Plains Drifter at the end.
It’s good to see that, for the Afghan Whigs, fifteen years off haven’t dulled their cinematic ambitions any.