Powder Burns – The Sunday Paper

06/04/06 CD Reviews > The Sunday Paper > Music Archives
It sounds ridiculous to say so, but Greg Dulli puts the sex and drugs into rock ‘n’ roll. Now, of course, these elements were always supposed to go hand in hand, but the indie-rock scene that birthed his old band, the Afghan Whigs, had serious reservations about many of big rock’s most cherished clichés. Dulli made his name by thumbing his nose at those conventions, behaving like an egomaniac and making records that never shied from an R&B groove or an amped-up Marshall stack.

“Powder Burns” was recorded primarily in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and follows the schematic of all previous Singers releases, featuring a bevy of guest musicians (this time Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur and frequent collaborator and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan). There’s slinky orchestration, dissonant guitars sustaining and a seedy decadence to the rhythms. And there’s an ever-present snarl on Dulli’s lips, full of old-school rock-star defiance.

Dulli’s forever battling his addictions—whether they be sex, drugs or attention—and while that storyline tires in real life, it makes tunes such as “Bonnie Brae,” “Forty Dollars” and “Candy Cane Crawl” puncture the night air with a desperate gravity. This guy is never going to be a satisfied customer, and his music reflects that tension. He’s forever trying to lose himself in the glitter and rouge—and sometimes he loses the listener, too. “Powder Burns” reeks of over-arrangement and too many add-ons. But with Dulli, such excess in the pursuit of exorcism is par for the course. 3 STARS—Rob O’Connor

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