Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps

Greg Dulli has been doing hard drugs and other guys’ girlfriends for as long as he has been writing songs – or at least based on the lyrical content and carnal rhythm of everything to date one can only assume. During a live performance at Smith’s Olde Bar years ago I heard him ask a rambunctious frat boy how much he paid for the show before removing said amount of money from his wallet, tossing it at the guy, and very unaffectedly telling him to get the fuck out. On his way out the guy called for his girlfriend to follow suit at which point Dulli told him “Don’t worry brother, I’ll take good care of her.” Needless to say, the guy was booted and the girl stayed.

Whether it’s through the Afghan Whigs, his solo stuff, The Gutter Twins, or Twilight Singers, Dulli doesn’t give a damn about his fans; and perhaps that’s what is so charming about him.  The man writes for himself and in doing so he seems to have captured seething emotion, the depths of human depravity, and sweet redemption as well as a few of our hearts along the way. His latest effort with Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps, vibes at times along the same line as earlier works Blackberry Belle and Powder Burns.

While I am not a churchgoing person, if Greg Dulli was Jesus, Gutter Twins collaborator Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) could easily be characterized as Judas; betraying the almighty for his own gain. I am by no means a fan of the Alice In Chains-era sad-bastard rock of the ’90s on which Lanegan cut his teeth and find Lanegan’s current contributions even less relevant today than I did back then. Dulli on the other hand pulled through the ’90s with his own sound, modernized it for Y2K and keeps reinventing himself with every new album. While Dynamite Steps does offer some of the heartbreakingly-lovely cuts that fans have come to expect like the throbbing “Get Lucky” and gritty “On The Corner” it’s tracks like hard to digest “Waves” that should serve as a warning that further influence from Lanegan could certainly yield similarly passé fare.

The track “Gunshots” is reminiscent of the Singers’ winding, amorphous debut Twilight As Played By The Twilight Singers; an oddity of an album – and my all-time favorite.  Dulli’s duet with Ani DiFranco “Blackbird and the Fox” is excellent, bringing to mind Afghan Whigs’ material where the frontman’s voice registered as uniquely raw and slightly off-key when juxtaposed against the softness of a female collaborator. It’s the sinister “Never Seen No Devil,” though, that leaves me eager for as much Twilight material as I can get. When Dulli’s devilish screams resolve into the hoarse whisper “Don’t mistake me/ Ain’t no ordinary man/ Gonna save me/ From the shotgun in your hand” you’re reminded one last time that he’s doing everything on his own terms and you have no choice but to love it or leave it. In the case of Dynamite Steps, love it.

Twilight Singers
Dynamite Steps
[Sub Pop]