Saturnalia – Yahoo! Music

Yahoo! Music
7/10

Are The Gutter Twins the most dysfunctional rock duo going? Possibly – it’s certainly part of the dark allure of a group featuring Greg Dulli (Afghan Wigs) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/QOTSA). Even though most drug habits are as tedious as they are dangerous, in this case it’s quite pertinent to this lush and epic debut album. In most other universes the pair would have collaborated years earlier given that they met at a party in 1989 and then even shared a house. But such are the polar powers of cocaine (Dulli) and heroin (Lanegan) they never even saw each other, let alone collaborated.

That’s not to say the pair have not recorded together before. Lanegan appeared on The Twilight Singers’ “She Loves You” and Dulli turned up on various Lanegan projects over the years. That said, “Saturnalia” sounds like the album they were destined to make. Dulli’s silky and at times ludicrously over-sexed voice makes a natural foil for Lanegan’s gruff and wounded croon. As opposed to the obvious beauty and the beast combination of Lanegan and Belle & Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell, this is more a case of the beast and the beast. Either way it is a mainline speedball hit of a combo.

As suggested in rock folklore, it seems that once the drugs are gone, the temptation for the artist concerned is to always be working, which leads to an inevitable drop off in quality, but this is a lovingly crafted record which has the same misty fug and aura as The Soulsavers and Lanegan indulged in recently. Not so much hip hop breaks as jazzy 3am beats piercing the fug of smoke. If it’s drug confessionals you’re after then they don’t come much better than the quasi-religious “Seven Stories Underground”. In fact, it might be argued that this is a 12-step album all round.

As all members of Narcotics Anonymous will tell you, the first thing you have to do on the road to recovery is admit there is a higher power. This seems to have been literally embraced by the pair, singing in a tight impassioned harmony “He has arrived, there by the grace of God go I”. Those missing the heaviness of the grunge period will be pleased to hear the monolithic slab of rock that is “Idle Hands”. Elsewhere, with “Who Will Lead Us?”, this speaks like the true modern voice of American folk music as a distinct entity aside from all the boutique, overly mannered singer-songwriters of the 21st century. Dysfunctional they maybe, but The Gutter Twins are staring at the stars.

by John Doran

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