The Gutter Twins, Glasgow – Review
By David Pollock
A certain irony, you might imagine, informed the decision by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to refer to themselves as the Glimmer Twins. Whatever the glimmer of redemption they saw within themselves was, the term was first adopted in the mid-Seventies when their prodigious hedonism was still in cruise control.
There’s surely no way the Gutter Twins’ name isn’t a reverent homage to Mick ‘n’ Keef, albeit one which cuts out the irony and goes straight to the dark heart of this band. Hinging on the creative partnership of Greg Dulli, of Afghan Whigs and currently frontman of the Twilight Singers, and Mark Lanegan, former Screaming Tree, Queen of the Stone Age and continuing collaborator with Glasgow’s own Isobel Campbell, the Gutter Twins are raw and troubling.
Although Dulli is the only one of the pair playing along with the band on an instrument (guitar and piano, largely), each of their vocal contributions are evenly balanced and well matched. For two such masters of the grizzly-voiced rock yell, in fact, there’s just enough of the odd couple going on to make the combination work more often than not.
The craggy Lanegan is the bad cop in this pairing, delivering a gruff, torrid vocal which recalls Tom Waits in its unschooled effectiveness. He sings “I Was In Love With You” like a man who knows this is his last chance to win his woman back, and already accepts that he’ll be dismissed to the bar when the song is over.
Lanegan’s raw style has a peculiar effect on women, and the Gutter Twins’ vaguely defined self-image as a pair of hellbound losers doesn’t eliminate a certain amount of self-possession from the equation.
Next to his co-vocalist, Dulli’s voice sounds almost angelic, which is a trick when all his very best lines are tainted with a frustrated self-doubt. “I see a darkness down the line,” he asserts during an unlikely but strong cover of Jose Gonzalez’s “Down the Line”. That’s as positive as it gets, but Lanegan’s gristly “she’ll never find another man like me” during the folk standard “St James Infirmary Blues” finds rare comfort in somewhat macho conceit.
Amidst a two-hour set of more expertly-realised standards and songs of their own, the out-and-out rock edge of the Gutters’ recorded work is smoothed down and made charming by the sheer force of personality the pair’s voices bring to the show. Their band is great, particularly Dave Rosser, whose guitar evokes a classic atmosphere which blends heavy, early-Nineties indie atmospherics with an air of wind-blown rootsiness.