Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. The more sincere form is to take what moves you and somehow make it your own. Both definitions are at work here on the long-awaited Afghan Whigs tribute record, Summer’s Kiss. Though lead Whig Greg Dulli has kept the fire going-solo and with Twilight Singers, the true venue for his passionate, decadent wisdom remains the Whigs. Since this is a mixed bag, the album is a bit of a let-down, but there are a handful of amazing covers here that easily erase the misfires.
You would figure that Dulli cronies Mark Lanegan and Matthew Ryan would do their bud well, and they do. Lanegan’s slow, creepy “Tonight” is as much Big Star’s Sister Lovers as it is Whigs, and while Ryan’s “The Slide Song” is a bit too reverent in the arrangement, his killer vocals even add to thepassion of the original. Sometime Twilight-er Jeff Klein is less effective; his role in My Jerusalem’s “66” is primarily a decent piano, but his vocals could have been used on a limp take of a hot song.
There are surprise winners as well, with Zykos being taking the crown for its furious “Miles iz Ded.” The Domani International do an OK turn on “Debonair.” Of the less successful, the sin is sloth. The Gin Riots’ “Be Sweet,” Susan Marshall’s “Goin to Town” and Wussy’s “Retarded” just don’t have the juice to deliver more than tepid, slick, slightly jittery covers. Most local bar bands are more sweaty.
Still, Summer’s Kiss shines a light on one of the greatest bands of the last 20 years, and on one of the best writers. That Dulli’s fire was rarely matched with the Afghan Whigs is proven here, as few on this comp can keep up with the original.