Amber Headlights – Boulder Dirt
– Matt Sebastian
Talk about a tangled provenance. “Amber Headlights” – which hit independent record shops this week – is nominally Greg Dulli’s solo debut. Yet Dulli wrote many of its songs for a final Afghan Whigs project that collapsed when the band split in 2001; two years later, Dulli recorded them for the sophomore release by his post-Whigs outfit, the Twilight Singers. Then Dulli scrapped the whole thing after a friend died, instead issuing a new batch of tracks, “Blackberry Belle,” as the Twilight Singers’ second CD.
With a third Twilight disc – last year’s covers collection “She Loves You” – behind him and a fourth, “Powder Burns,” already in the works, Dulli now resurrects “Amber Headlights” for a belated airing. Turns out the nine-song, 30-minute affair actually makes a lot more sense if you know its sequential place in Dulli’s discography.
Indeed, “Amber Headlights” sounds more like a Whigs record than anything Dulli’s done since that band broke up. Songs such as “Cigarettes” and “Black Swan” grind along on slashing chords reminiscent of “Uptown Again” or “Blame, Etc.,” while opener “So Tight” – propelled by an absolutely booming beat – sways under a killer, “Gentlemen”-like guitar snarl. Lyrically, Dulli’s as dark and sleazy as ever, moaning about seduction, lust and ego, all over the sludgy soul-rock he’s been plying for years.
This may not be Dulli’s next incarnation – we’ll get that early next year – but it’s still a characteristically gritty look back at where he’s been.