Greg Dulli is one of those infuriating people whose talent is matched only by their inconsistency - I've been called out for saying so, but to me, "Black Love" is the only truly great Afghan Whigs album, although all the others admittedly have their moments. The Twilight Singers, I'm happy to report, are a great deal more together, improving in a steady arc from "Blackberry Belle" through "She Loves You" through to this gorgeous, rock-noir monster.
Noir is exactly the right word for "Powder Burns"; it's a musical equivalent to its cover art - the hazy blurred neon of a midnight cityscape while you're drunk as hell in the back of some (possibly very dodgy) associate's car. As is typical for Dulli, the intense, sultry heat of the Deep South is an almost tangible presence in the songs, and the album highlight, the stunning, heart-bursting 'Underneath The Waves' is a rapturous paen to the devastated New Orleans.
The stuff here is as addictive and as overwhelming as absinthe...driving Pumpkins-esque guitars merging with delicious, often remarkably complex string arrangements, jazz horns, lonely piano/drum loops and stealthily sequenced electronic percussion. And we musn't forget GB's lyrics, which can evocatively express lust, disdain, bliss and utter misery, sometimes within the space of a line or two. There's even a couple of witty quotations; from the Beatles and the Prodigy (!) respectively.
It crests with the title track, whose chorus flares like a match in total darkness, then dwindles to a soft, fading glow, the line 'And I burn, but no one can see me...' inexplicably emotionally shattering.
Dulli is the rock equivalent to Mickey Rourke in the '80s, and I declare this the rock opera counterpart to "Angel Heart", only much less silly. Everyone should hear this.
I had tickets for a Twilights gig for Mark Lanegan reasons, and bought 'Powder Burns' out of curiosity. It's a superb album, with no filler tracks. I can't think of a better album released in 2006. Seriously, for the current price of [...], you can't go wrong. (Also, the new EP 'A Stitch in Time' is worth buying for the cover of Massive Attack's 'Live With Me'.)
Ok, so this is going to be the most biased review I could ever write. Why? Well, Greg Dulli's Twilight Singers are one of my all time favourite bands, and hopefully if you take the Twilight plunge they will be yours as well.
I don't think I can fault this album, from the rock swagger of I'm Ready through the beauty of Candy Cane Crawl, to the Floyd-esque ending of I Wish I Was, this is Mr Dulli's most accomplished work post Afghan Whigs.
I think pre-Hurricane Katrina (the album was recorded in part in New Orleans in the wake of that terrible natrual disaster), Greg Dulli was in danger of limiting his vision to the (almost) certain detriment of his obvious talent. Blackberry Bell (the 2nd Singers cd), his solo "joint" Amber Headlights and to an extent the covers cd, She Loves You (although you've propbably never heard covers performed this way), kind of sounded like 3 albums made up from one song (a post-modern, alt-rock Thick as a Brick - One for you Jethro Tull fans out there!). A well used saying goes (and I paraphrase), that every songwriter is essentially writing the same song, over and over again. I actually didn't mind this as Greg Dulli's one song beats the hell out of most bands entire back catalogue-Fact, no internal dialogue needed!
The change in Greg Dulli following Katrina and being clean from narcotics for the first time in years, bleeds through every one of these 12 tracks. Surrounding himself with people of equal talent (Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur, Scott Ford, Bobby Mcintyre (surely one of the best, live (not in a Keith Moon isn't way) rock drummers out there)), Dulli surpasses most of his previous achievements (yes even The Whigs).
This cd is the work of a genuine, original talent. Take a chance on Mr Dulli & Co and you will not be disappointed.
Former Afghan Whig leader Greg Dulli follows up his recent covers album 'She Loves You' and the recent companion Greg Dull's 'Amber Lights' with 'Powder Burns', the most outwardly commercial album he's been associated with since the Whigs' shallow party classic '1965' released in 1998.
'Powder Burns' is Dulli's strongest original set since '1965', possibly better - though I find it hard to top the classic Whigs' trio of 'Congregation', 'Gentlemen' and 'Black Love' - though the production is extremely polished and at times close to the Happy Mondays! Dulli has been using more of an electronic studio sound since the dance inflections of the Twilight Singers' debut - this might be to banish the memory of his old band or so he can play all the instruments or the aid of pro-tools...I don't know. But some may find this a bit too polished and commercial - there are definitely songs that could be hits or warrant radio play here. It seems a definite companion to '1965' - though I found that this material live was much better with the great touring band Dulli has at present (or the great sequence on the tour with just Dulli and piano that suggests he could be the new Bruce Springsteen a la 'Thunder Road' on that Live Box Set!). There are guests on here, notably Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur & former Whig John Curley.
There are plenty of fine songs here - 'I'm Ready' sounds like the meeting point of the Cure and the Whigs, while the raucous 'Forty Dollars' is another standout and probably what Primal Scream tried to do on their latest album (it also drops in a bit of the Beatles' 'She Loves You'). 'There's Been an Accident' has quite a complex string arrangement and some wonderful piano that evokes the atmosphere of a soundtrack (& sounds a bit like NIN's 'Something I Can Never Have') - the strings feel a little bit Eastern - would be great if Dulli did a whole album in this style, might be a 'Song Cycle' for the zeroes?
'Bonnie Brae' could have been on any of the Whigs' albums, while 'Candy Cane Crawl' has a sound that reminds me of several David Sylvian albums of all things! There is much euphoria here, 'Underneath the Waves' sounds bursting and full of life, while 'My Time Has Come' has a similar drum-beat to the Whigs' 'Going to Town' (i.e. a bit New Order) - dark lusty lyrics ("I would die to taste her blood some more..." Mr Dulli does reside in New Orleans!) and angular guitar that reminds me a bit of Elastica!! The title track is great stuff too, an advance of Dulli's anthemic/melancholic thing and feeling like a sequel to the Whigs' great 'Tonight.'
'Powder Burns' is a fine album, though maybe too slick for those still enamoured with 'Up In It' or 'Gentlemen' - I think Dulli should go the whole hog and make an album that fuses 'Greetings from LA' with 'Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches' next time! I do believe there is a Gutter Hearts album recorded, so Mr Dulli will return with Mark Lanegan with that project in the New Year. Rockin'!!!! A soundtrack to the good times, with an eye on the bad times and proof that the fire is still in 40-something Dulli. Or maybe that's just the Sambuca!!!