Powder Burns – Static Multimedia
Greg Dulli has always been upfront about his heroin addiction, but the latest Twilight Singers album may as well be called “Traffic,” for it is at heart a concept album about the powder (hence the title). The liner notes are arrayed with maps that appear to trace the path of drugs from South America to Dulli, detailing Peru, New Orleans (where much of Powder Burns was, um, “shot on location”), and Los Angeles (including the famed junkie haven MacArthur Park).
The idea that an album can function as a film has been central to Dulli’s aesthetic since the early days of the Afghan Whigs. Strapping on a guitar for the first time in years, Dulli goes all-out to ensure that Powder Burns is a three-dimensional account of addiction in all its forms. If Dulli’s personal demons are not well and truly exorcised, I’ll be surprised. Crashing drums at the start of “I’m Ready” serve as a call to arms. The “assorted jones” of “There’s Been an Accident” give way to the slow-building agony of “Bonnie Brae,” which picks up where the Whigs’ classic junkie tale “Fountain and Fairfax” left off.
This song proves that when Dulli doesn’t raise his voice, the tension in his songs becomes palpable. When he hits his upper register, the songs sound kinda samey, and his lyrics on paper look kinda cheesy, but the menacing middle ground, with the air of a conversation about to go horribly wrong, is where it’s at. Elsewhere, the album’s less awesome moments are saved by effects-laden cameos from Joseph Arthur and backing vocals from Ani DiFranco, among others. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, Powder Burns is so convincing in its depiction of addiction that I feel I need to take a shower and check myself into rehab.