Powder Burns – The Word

June 2006 – Issue 40
By David Sinclair

When it comes to exploring the dark underbelly of the beast in search of stories to bring back from the other side, Greg Dulli is not a man to shirk responsibilities. Twenty years since he started the Afghan Whigs in Cincinnati, and now on his fourth album as the mainman of the Twilight Singers, Dulli’s swashbuckling commitment to the alt.rock cause remains undiminished. Powder Burns chronicles a period of his life spent running the streets of LA with a gang of drug dealers, and if that wasn’t enough in the way of dramatic raw material, much of the album was recorded in New Orleans both before and after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina. The result is an album infused with a coiled, cinematic aura of violence and mayhem, but also touched by a strangely uplifting quality as Dulli searches for signs of hope and redemption amid the debris of such a haunting landscape. Forty Dollars is a sinister evocation of the dealer lifestyle which merges an insistent soul-rock melody with feedback effects that hover like a migraine on the edge of the mix. “Notify your next of kin,” Dulli snarls in a voice redolent of Billy Corgan, a contemporary from the days when the Whigs were signed to the Sub Pop label in Seattle. My Time (Has Come), with its rumbling bass line and ghost-choir harmonies has an even more jittery pull and an irresistible momentum. At the other end of the spectrum, the title track, featuring guest vocals from Ani DiFranco, is a huge, Phil Spector rock ballad, trembling with a sweeter emotion. Great songs, and a full-on trip besides.

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