Dulli Delivers With Twilight Singer’s ‘Dynamite Steps’
For the last twenty years Greg Dulli has made a career out of seducing us with an animalistic side of humanity so lecherous it’s hard not to want more.
There is something provocative about going on the ride of your life, crashing the car and walking away unscathed. Though, there comes a time when life catches up to you, when you are at the ATM at four a.m. and a little voice in your head says, “go home”—lucky for us Dulli never listened to that voice.
“Whenever you’re here, you’re alive,” are the first words Dulli professes on “Dynamite Steps,” his fifth Twilight Singers release. Dulli just hot-wired the car, we are riding shotgun, cruising into the night, and there is most likely a .45 tucked underneath the seat—enchanté.
The fucked up lover/confidence man persona Dulli perfected with The Afghan Whigs is back with a soul-derived brand of rock so smooth only he could pull off. Even though Dulli is up to the same old noirish tricks of power struggle games, lurid trysts, and late nights, his perspective has changed. The Dulli on “Dynamite Steps” is not the same Dulli on “Powder Burns” or “Blackberry Belle”—the guy who sang “Annie Mae” is not the same guy who sang “Bonnie Brae.”
The music has also evolved. Sure, there is still a touch of 60’s soul influence racked with delicate piano and swirling guitar, but the orchestration is larger and purposely sounds like a masterful plan to evince our innermost fears and desires—startling yet simultaneously comforting. Dulli played around with this on “Blackberry Belle” with songs like “Martin Eden” and “St. Gregory.” The web-like atmospheric orchestration was on high with “She Loves You,” then seemed to dissipate on “Powder Burns.”
“Dynamite Steps” appropriately starts off with the ominous “Last Night in Town.” Reminiscent of how Dulli kicked off “Blackberry Belle” with” Martin Eden,” “Last Night” begins slowly with low menacing piano before bursting into a mélange of sound—warbling psychedelic guitars cut into thumping drums that electrify the track.
“Be Invited” is a ballad for the cool descent into hell. “Once the feeling comes/you play the part/break the heart /till you feel alive/scratch through the ceiling you love to have your fun/behind the gun/until the fever dies,” Dulli croons. Not much has changed in Dulli’s eyes; humanity is still a son of a bitch. Mark Lanegan lends his cigarette-abused, whiskey-poached vocals to the chorus, “there’s something at work here/ dark circles around your body.”
Dulli’s vocals go from delicate on tracks like “Blackbird and the Fox,” a sexy duet with Ani DiFranco, to a full shout on “Waves,” an adrenaline shot that sounds like it was plucked off a Gutter Twins record. Dulli flirts with falsetto on the soulful “The Beginning of the End.”
While seedy undertones run steadily through the record, we get a sense that Dulli has grown a little wiser yearning to escape the places he continuously finds himself. “You and I could go anywhere,” he howls on “Waves.” “Cut your losses and I’ll meet you there.”
Like “Twilight,” “Dynamite” ends on an uplifting note with the title track. A swirling acoustic floats around a piano and descends into familiar guitar. “You’re never going to feel like you felt last night/Ever wonder where went your guiding light?/Wake up in a field with a second sight. You’ll love me,” Dulli swings with swagger. It’s a new day, “everything’s gonna be alright, baby you’ll see.” It wasn’t hyperbole, this guy was never fucking around.