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Amber Headlights – Free New Mexican

Terrell’s tune-up, 02/10/2006

Amber Headlights by Greg Dulli. This nine-song EP, clocking in at less than 35 minutes, sounds more like the Afghan Whigs than Dulli has in years. While his current band, the Twilight Singers, explores more layered, dreamier sounds, most of these songs offer that trademark angsty, Whigsy guitar — descended as much from ’70s blaxploitation soundtracks as punk/metal.

There’s a good reason this sounds closer to his old band. It originally was recorded back in 2001, but for reasons I’m not sure of only saw the light of day late last year. Some riffs and melodies from Amber Headlights have been reworked into other tunes on Twilight Singer albums.

Longtime Dulli fans surely will find similarities between this effort and Black Love, the Whigs’ 1996 masterpiece. As is often the case, the narrator of these songs is a shadowy cad, almost like a Steely Dan character, trying to lure young naked prey with slick talk and cocaine.

“Your weakness is my sweetness,” he sings with Petra Haden in an almost-mocking falsetto in “Pussywillow,” though he also sings, “sweetness is my weakness.”

“Used to feel love, now I wanna hurt you/real bad/real slow,” he confesses as the Shaft-like guitar starts to boil in “Early Today (and Later That Night).”

“This world is wicked/it’s beautiful,” he sings on “Wicked.”

But in the last song, “Get the Wheel,” Dulli, alone at a piano, sounds as if he’s gone soft on a skirt: “Last night was all right,” he sings in his cool rasp. “I wanna see you again.”

And you know she’ll be back.

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