Amber Headlights – Sick Among the Pure
By Vivien Weimar
Greg Dulli always reminds me of New Orleans. There something about his overtly oozing sexuality, open debauchery and alcohol-fueled musical declarations of carpe diem all wrapped up in the Delta blues that invoke the Big Easy. Dulli may be best known as the frontman for The Afghan Whigs, a band that probably drew more comparisons to Seattle than the South, but for long-time fans who have “followed him down” Dulli has never denied his love of soul. So, it is no surprise that his first solo (or at least nominally solo) album, Amber Headlights, is filled with his trademark come-ons, brash guitars and a huge helping of funk grooves. Amber Headlights is like a musical equivalent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; there are enough secrets and ghosts haunting this album to make one almost believe in its magic. The Twilight Singers was originally Dulli’s side project, and the band had one album under their belt, as Dulli then decided to hole himself in New Orleans to start making a solo record. It was then that he got the crushing news that friend and filmmaker Ted Demme died. Dulli decided to shelve many of the songs that would eventually become Amber Headlights.
The all-night party starts right from the first track, “So Tight” with Dulli snarling “It’s Friday / I’m lonely. I smell trouble.” During his Gentleman-period, Dulli seemed genuinely surprised by his dark urges; now he not only embraces them, he’s going to be your personal darkside tour guide, never letting you forget that sinister starts with sin. “Cigarettes” showcases his strong songwriting and is the closest Whig-like track on the album, while “Golden Boy” forefronts the vocals, which (almost) approach restraint and resignation. “Domani,” also featured on The Twilight Singer’s EP, Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair, and the throw-away “Black Swan” make Amber Headlights feel a little short. Overall, when he’s on, Dulli makes being bad sound so good. Amber Headlights is an unintentional but bittersweet farewell to a city celebrates both decadence and tragedy.