Powder Burns – New Noise
By Steven Fanning
2006 has been a busy year for former Afghan Whigs front man Greg Dulli. Having released the ‘Amber Headlights’ solo album earlier in the year, Dulli now continues his prolific spree with the new, fourth Twilight Singers record ‘Powder Burns’. And a lovely collection of 12 typically Dulli tracks it is too.
The Afghan Whigs provided a softer edge to American rock n roll as grunge briefly dominated the world in the early nineties. There was never anything anthemic or immediate about the Afghan Whigs, under Dulli’s stewardship they created cathartic and emotive music true to the rock roots but slightly off-kilter from their Seattle stadia-filler contemporaries of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. The depth of Dulli’s lyrics coupled with the intricacy of the music that lay beneath his passionate vocals made the Whigs a band to appreciate and revere rather than idolise and impersonate.
‘Powder Burns’ could well have been an Afghan Whigs album. Dulli’s voice and style is so recognisable as being exclusively his and the influence he exerted over the Afghan Whigs music is obvious in everything he has released since. The new record is a journey through tales of happiness and sorrow, hope and realisation. It’s soothing on the ear yet upbeat and punchy. The production is sublime, mixed to perfection and beautifully accomplished.
‘Forty Dollars’ is a real highlight of the album. A piano led intro supporting Dulli’s distorted vocals leads into a chorus offering “love for sale, come on get some before it gets stale.” There’s even homage paid to the Beatles as we are eased gently towards the spiralling climax of the song: “she loves you, yeah yeah yeah.” Especially for forty dollars it seems.
With a grunge revival currently gathering some momentum since the return of Pearl Jam, the reunited Dinosaur Jr and the imminent re-arrival of the Smashing Pumpkins after Billy Corgan’s various disastrous projects since their acrimonious split some six years ago, ‘Powder Burns’ couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Add to this the new Mudhoney album and we could be set nicely for a revitalisation of a scene that died far too soon with Kurt Cobain’s premature death by his own hand in 1994. “My time goes on and on” Dulli sings in ‘My Time (Has Come)’, what better way to extend the grunge legacy a few more years?