Album Review

Dynamite Steps

Dynamite Steps

by The Twilight Singers

Sub Pop
7.2 / 10
22nd February

Reviewed by Ricardo Kerr

The Twilight Singers is the musical vehicle for ex-Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli and has released 5 albums and 2 EPs since 2000. The last album that Dulli headlined was the noir-rock opus Saturnalia under the moniker of The Gutter Twins with frequent collaborator / conspirator Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers, ex-Screaming Trees). Both of these two projects strip-mine the darker end of the human psyche; abound with tales of addiction, whores, and damnation. You cannot however have damnation without its counterpart deliverance. This heaven and hell duality is what fuels The Twilight Singers latest album Dynamite Steps and Dulli has brought some old friends into the fold to tell his harrowing tales.

Lanegan makes his welcome presence felt on the dusky ‘Be Invited’, his gravelly voice a time-tested counterpoint to Dulli’s own seductive intonations. Ani Difranco, Joseph Arthur, and Verve guitarist Nick McCabe also contribute. The first two tracks are deliberately paced to the point of sedation but when songs kick into high gear then they rock with the best of them. Case in point is early highlight ‘Waves’. It starts with a gut-rumbling bassline and atonal electric piano before high-octane guitars howl their way into view over a manic drum beat. The Twilight Singers treat their energetic rockers and gloomy ballads with equal care. Many songs start with as little as piano keys and Dulli’s torn-velvet croon and you never feel short changed by them. They are not used to “fill the album out”, rather to create an inescapable atmosphere.

Throughout the album you are left in no doubt that this is primarily a one man show. Whether he is recounting tales of hell or taunting heaven, Dulli delivers every line with conviction and a perverse sense of triumph. His powerful and passionate voice is ever-present and quite a force to be reckoned with. That being said it is far from a perfect instrument. Where less confident artists would hone and refine every note Dulli knows the power of his imperfections, straining his voice to and beyond breaking point (as he does on the show-stealing ‘On the Corner’). That is Dulli in a nutshell; not afraid to be seen as he is, warts and all.

Dynamite Steps is an intoxicating if ominous ride through a lifetime of highs and lows, reflections on life and death, and the redemptive power of music. Sure, it could use some more stand-out tracks and a few more hooks but that would be missing the point. The Twilight Singers is all about baring one’s soul to the world, and on that they deliver.

Total: 3
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There are a precious few 'artists' still making music these days and Greg Dulli is one of them... He's one of the two best songwriters of his generation (hell just about any), Jeff Tweedy being the other, and if Dynamite Steps doesn't confirm it then you should probably stick with candy song auto tuned robotic-ness which is produced for a FRACTION OF WHAT YOU EVENTUALLY PAY FOR IT (morally speaking). Really, where else do you find that kind of brilliance and honesty these days? You don't... you most certainly don't.
Posted by Sean - anonymous 5 years ago

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I couldn't agree more Sean. His work with Gutter Twins was the nail in the coffin for artists who just "coast" on their former merits (add Mark Lanegan to your list too)
Posted by Twilight Sang - anonymous 5 years ago

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I'm a big fan of Dulli and Lanegan both. I appreciate that Dulli's one of the few singers not to be eclipsed by Lanegan, a rare feat in itself. Dulli's work will always be my go to when I want to hear music that makes me feel something, be that the way I feel cool when I listen to Afghan Whigs or the way I feel moody and dark with Twilight Singers. Dynamite Steps may be my favorite of Dulli's work yet. Hard to say though because when it comes to Dulli's music, I've a lot of favorites!
Posted by Jennifer - anonymous 5 years ago

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