Amber Headlights – CD Times (UK)
by Richard Hughes
After the split of the Afghan Whigs it was always going to be interesting to see where Greg Dulli was going to go to next. When the Twilight Singers released their first album and then followed it up with the rather excellent Blackberry Belle everything in the world of Dulli must looked great, but there was a moment in between these records that had changed his outlook.
The material that makes up this record, the Amber Headlights, are sessions that were shelved between the first and second Twilight Singers albums due to the death of Dulli’s close friend, the film director Ted Demme. From the sleeve notes of the album, he freely admits that this death changed his outlook on life and these songs that he’d recorded no longer appealed to him and he couldn’t connect with them. He had disappeared, the last Twilight Singers album was a covers record, so it’s reassuring to see that he is back, though anyone hoping this is a return to form will be slightly disappointed.
As with any collection of songs that were shelved and then released, there’s a sense of wondering whether they should see the light of day after being shelved. All the right ingredients are here for a Dulli based project – strong, gruff vocals, heavily produced guitars and songs about sexy ladies and cigarettes. The problem is it all sounds rather dated. The Afghan Whigs were pioneers in this not quite grunge, not quite mainstream rock that has become increasingly popular. The highs on this album are great slices of alt-rock; the track Cigarettes has a great riff with pierces through a wall of sound that sounds like the Twilight Singers at their most ambitious, but the song Domani is a soft-rock track by numbers, wah-wah guitar and all. It just seems as though the quality control filter was set a little low and lacks a bit of direction. Some of these tracks certainly should have stayed shelved.
This was, according to Dulli, his first attempt at recording “without a net” – his first solo record. It seems as though he works better when he has someone else’s feedback, an additional hand to help the quality control. Let’s hope that he pairs up with someone soon so that one of the most under-rated voices in alt-rock has a comeback to be proud of.