Many peaks at Gutter Twins show

Many peaks at Gutter Twins show – BostonHerald.com
by Jed Gottlieb

Imagine little Mark Lanegan scribbling a fifth-grade paper on what he wants to be when he grows up. Other boys are aspiring firefighters and astronauts; Lanegan’s designing a destiny of dingy clubs and dark rock ’n’ roll. The other kids probably teased him until he belted out a few bars with his Jack Daniels-and-Lucky Strike vocal cords.

Maybe Lanegan could have fought fate and tried another career path, but a teeming Paradise was glad he didn’t at Tuesday night’s Gutter Twins show.

Lanegan first unleashed his sinister growl fronting the Screaming Trees. But since the Trees were lumberjacked in the mid-’90s, he’s spent time growling with Queens of the Stone Age, Belle & Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell and fellow Gutter Twin Greg Dulli in the Twilight Singers. But the Gutter Twins are tailored for his talent.

The Twins’ set mirrored the track list on their debut CD, “Saturnalia.” But the band wasn’t regurgitating the understated performances on the album. Instead it jolted the dark drones with squealing guitars, thunderous crescendos and unholy harmony vocals.

Lanegan and Dulli have always dug Tom Waits’ vocal grumblings, but now they’re digging his artistic approach. Waits began as a beat-jazz devotee but sculpted his sound by stripping away the flashy and cliched until he was left with skeletal shadows. The Twins do the same for grunge. Gone are the histrionics and hooks of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Hunger Strike,” leaving only an intense and aching bottom end hum. The two frontmen and their backing quartet wallowed in that hum’s depths until Dulli started throwing out witty stage banter.

“If that’s all you got, we’ll be coming to Providence next time,” he told the crowd. Then: “Thanks Providence, you’re a great crowd.”

He got a laugh, but he dynamited the foundation the set was built on. Typically, Lanegan never broke character; he probably hasn’t since that fifth-grade assignment.

Heavily hyped opening act Great Northern never settled into a groove. When things got interesting, songs ended; when they were boring, ditties went on too long. But a rough diamond like “Telling Lies” showed the Los Angeles outfit is close to finding the balance between pop and chaos for which it is looking.

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