Release Date: Feb 15, 2011
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Unleashing a persona that's part barroom romantic, part serial killer, Greg Dulli's Twilight Singers project has now eclipsed his Nineties soul-grunge outfit Afghan Whigs. On the group's fifth record, arrangements vary — dissonant strings, thrift-store drum machines, wah-wah guitar — but never the sense of menace, even when girl voices (Ani DiFranco, Petra Haden) hover like lost spirits. "Gunshots, baby/let's cut through the crowd," Dulli croons at one point over sniping guitar, like Satan taking a date to an assassination.
The Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli soundtracks the sinister atmosphere and unsettling dread of ambling down a dark alley. Death lurks around every power chord and sustained piano tone. Dynamite Steps is the long-standing collective’s fifth album and its first in five years. Ani DiFranco, Petra Haden, The Verve’s Nick McCabe and Dulli’s Gutter Twins cohort Mark Lanegan make contributions, too.
Review Summary: The best album Greg Dulli has written in almost fifteen years. Confessions of a megafan: it's good to know that, over half a decade strong into the cynicism of adulthood, there are still some artists out there that can make you feel as excited as you did when you were fourteen years old, waiting for one of your three or four favourite bands to come out with something new. Greg Dulli, for me, is one such artist; even in a month that seemed to be swamped in exciting new albums, the release of Dynamite Steps had me scrambling around the internet looking for previews.
Last fall, Greg Dulli embarked on a short tour of the U.S. and the UK that dusted off chestnuts from every dark corner of his career with the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers. From other 1990s alt-rock survivors, this might have come across as a wholly nostalgic endeavor, a way to remind fans that he's the guy who wrote "Debonair" and "Honky's Ladder".
Eleven tracks to supernatural seduction Often times while writing an album review, as a means to self-regulate my own procrastinating tendencies, I’ll listen to nothing but that record until I’m done. The idea is that I’ll eventually grow so weary with it that I’ll pound it out rapid-fire so I can listen to something else. This method has a 75 percent success in prompting productivity circa five listens.
Proud tradition suggests that I open a review of a new Greg Dulli album with some detailed hypothetical about the man’s sheer sexual force — that he will ‘seduce your woman,’ that he will meet her at a motel on the outskirts of New Orleans, that it will be strangely beautiful and bathed in yellow light — but his libido has always been a little more complicated than that. The final track on The Twilight Singers’ 2003 album Blackberry Belle, “Number Nine,” was also its best: Mark Lanegan guested as the sandpaper-voiced victim, alone, barely moving, in dialogue with his own addiction, as played by Greg Dulli. “You fucker,” Lanegan groans.
Greg Dulli might be an incorrigible, inveterate, unreformed con artist, but those who’ve been loyally following him are probably more than happy to have enabled him all this time. More than two decades after founding R&B-styled grunge band Afghan Whigs, the Twilight Singers frontman is still working all the angles, telling tall tales of peccadilloes and sexcapades the kinds of which indie hipsters and wallflowers can only live out vicariously through his songs. Yet beyond being an honest-to-goodness bar-brawling lothario, Dulli gets away with murder, so to speak, because his stories are complex and complicated, not just scandalous and over-the-top.
The fifth full-length outing from head Afghan Whig and Gutter Twin Greg Dulli's Twilight Singers bristles with the kind of feverish late-night electricity that leaves notebooks in tatters and ashtrays spilling over onto the basement floor. Boasting a small army of maverick co-conspirators that includes Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur, Petra Haden, Carina Round, Nick McCabe (The Verve), and Mark Lanegan, Dulli has crafted another solid collection of murky, innuendo-laced slabs of electro-tinged dirge rock that examines the darker corners of the human psyche. Part Richard Hawley and part Nick Cave, the album is built around Dulli's gritty, imperfect vocal abilities, and it’s in the strained delivery of lines like “You crash the car to make the fever rise” (“Be Invited”) and “I get lucky sometimes” (“Get Lucky”), along with the cinematic sweep of cuts like “Last Night in Town” and “Gunshots,” that Dynamite Steps makes its biggest impressions.
It’s funny, as you get older, how some things start to become a bit more palatable. Initially foul tasting things like olives and whisky eventually turn into two of life’s greatest assets when you finally get through the pain barrier. Greg Dulli is another such example for this reviewer. As a teen, his cryptic melodramatics and black attire used to suspiciously smell of ‘faux’angst’ but - most of all - I could not stand his voice.
As his band’s name suggests, Greg Dulli’s brand of rock and roll is about what goes down while the rest of us are asleep. Twilight Singers records are cinematic urban environs characterized by large, dark sunglasses, flashing neon signs, innumerable cigarette drags, and more debauchery and vice in a single night than most people experience in a lifetime. But beneath the rock star bravado and a swagger that seems to bask in the exploits of the seamy side of life, Dulli’s music glowingly bares a soul that is vulnerable, tormented, and, most compellingly, almost always seeking some sort of redemption.
You can’t imagine Greg Dulli ever popping to the shop to get in a round of Soleros, can you? The last time we saw the former [a]Afghan Whigs[/a] man he was stewing his gloopily noir brand of bluster-rock with Mark Lanegan as [a]The Gutter Twins[/a] – now he’s back with his fifth [a]Twilight Singers[/a] album. Lanegan pops up again on [b]‘Be Invited’[/b] and [b]‘Blackbird And The Fox’[/b], but even without him Dulli generally succeeds in keeping things as darkly hypnotic as a rain-lashed midnight motorway. [b]‘Waves’[/b] boasts QOTSA-esque propulsion, but the rest is more subtle vampiric piano thumps and cinematic finger-quiver strings.
“Whenever you’re here, you’re alive/ The Devil says you can do what you like.” A familiar sentiment that greets us warmly upon our first listen of Dynamite Steps, the new album from The Twilight Singers. It’s been 5 years since Greg Dulli and his cohorts released their peak, the stunning Powder Burns. That album was a typically sinister look at the collapse of New Orleans seen through the eyes of one last bender.