I’ve missed the roaring guitars of the Afghan Whigs. I’ve also missed their willingness to play it big and to play it loud and to play it with their heart on their sleeve. For all of Greg Dulli’s tongue in cheek (and tongue-in-God-knows-what-else) vocalizing and posturing, he was never less than genuine-whether it was genuinely snarky or genuinely flaying open his personal wounds for the audience.
So what’s with all this Dulli-talk before the Stepford Five review? Well, fellow Ohioans Stepford Five have been taking notes from Mr. Supalove, and while their music lacks the tragic lover-man, come-lay-down-by-me-girl thrust of the Whigs, their music does pick up the Whigs’ penchant for huge, multi-layered guitar work augmented by lovely harmonies.
A New Design for Living is spit-shined and polished, a solid as a brick shithouse work of rock. Cuts “Recognition for the Lonely Ones” and “No Use” prove their chops at bashing out potent pop. And when they strip their tunes to the quick, as on the lovely “Ted Hughes” which boasts a driving cello part, the Stepford Five more than fulfill the promise of their earlier work.
A New Design for Living is far from perfect; the super clean production bleeds some of the character from their arrangements and the record’s energy begins to flag as it goes on. It is, however, an accomplished record, and one that indicates a big talent on the verge of bigger things. - Erik Pepple