Powder Burns – Amplifier Magazine

Amplifier Magazine

So maybe Greg Dulli’s story won’t have the tragic ending I personally resigned to believing it would. No, he has seen the light at the end of the tunnel and not the blinding light finale from the sky above. His eleventh LP of songs (and third Twilight Singers’ offering) written almost literally in his own sweat, blood and semen is a testament to the former Afghan Whig leader’s choice to continue breathing, living, and writing. With Powder Burns Dulli digs back into his bag of gritty, greasy, grimy rock tricks, while keeping the feeling of film noir scrim. Ever balancing on a fence between prostration and narcissism, Dulli’s lyrics here are admittedly closer to the former than the latter, as he mourns his lost love relationship with self-destruction and looks ahead with trepidation. Synchronic from start to finish, Powder Burns unfolds like the pages of a script from scene to scene, track to track. First, a little opening credit orchestral tidbit, then into “I’m Ready,” an anthemic, cohesive and catchy rock promise. “Bonnie Brae” is carried by a steady strum of signature Dulli steely guitar and leaden bass line, sexy and lumbering, until he cries out in the chorus “The situation dire, it’s gone away, it’s not going away. . .” “Forty Dollars,” one of two songs on the LP Dulli says was written while still in a drug haze (the other is “Dead to Rights”), has that bleak ring of pounding piano keys like those heard throughout the Whigs’ Black Love. The “Candy Cane Crawl” paints a similar picture of that time—part rock gospel, part blue-eyed soul, the song was recorded chain-letter style, with Dulli sending it on to New York for drummer Greg Wiz to add his part, then to Cincinnati so former Whigs band mate John Curley could add bass, then on to Los Angeles for Scott Bennett to add vocals, and back to NOLA where Ani DiFranco added more vocals. “The Conversation” is another sad beauty of confession and redemption. The title track finds Dulli staring into the gaping hole from which he has just been plucked by angels, knowing how close he was to falling past the point of no return, yet wondering if saving him was a good idea. The LP was recorded amid the fresh wound of Hurricane Katrina in Dulli’s beloved New Orleans, so the pathos created here is not only for Dulli’s own struggling soul, but for that of the Crescent City as well. “I Wish I Was” is his paean to NOLA, capturing the quiet after the storm with the far-off squeak of a jazz horn and choral background vocals, and a dénouement for the credits to roll behind this auditory picture show. Breathe, live, write, Signore!

(Release date: May 16, 2006)
–Penelope Biver

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