Powder Burns – Filter

Filter Magazine – Spring ’06 – by Nevin Martnell
Rating: 87%

Seeing the Afghan Whigs on what turned out to be their last legs at the Bowery Ballroom on the 1965 tour was a religious experience. The band was in full abandon, backed up by a trio of soul singin’ sisters and a Columbia Records tab at the bar. By the end of the set, lead singer Greg Dulli was leaning punch-drunk on the mic stand, sweat pouring through his black suit with hair akimbo. There might have been a cigarette in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other-he might have even had an ebony feather boa draped around his neck-I was too far gone at that point to take down the details. But I remember him looking the way I felt: spent, but alive. That night was a confession, a baptism and a fervent prayer all rolled into one.

Since then, Afghan Whigs fans have sustained themselves on Dulli’s Twilight Singers. Their first three records were hit and miss affairs; the sound of a man trying to find his voice after losing his old band. Thankfully, on Powder Burns, he seems to have finally found it. It’s late-night lust and morning-after regret with a touch of the kind of compassion that only comes from sweet oblivion. On “Forty Dollars,” warped and leering, he boasts, “I get all of my kicks for free,” wile a swaggering beat finds complement in a cascade of piano. The sylphlike torch ballad “Candy Cane Crawl” is all come-on seduction as he half-commands, half-implores, “Slow down/Lean in/Call up/That feeling/You get when you’re stealing.”

This is the closest Dulli has come to replicating the genius he displayed with the Whigs, but it’s not a retread. It’s ball-grabbing, heart-stopping, blue-eyed Motown rock and roll of the highest order. So get yourself a smoke and your drink of choice-maybe a black feather boa if you’re feeling adventurous; some things are certainly worth repeating-and get ready to go back to church.

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