Dulli Melds Real, Surreal
by Rick Bird
When an album begins with the sinister lyrics “Black out the windows/It’s party time/You know how I love stormy weather/So let’s all play suicide,” you know it must be another wild, hedonistic ride with Greg Dulli.
The former Afghan Whigs frontman and Ross High grad releases his first album in three years Tuesday, “blackberry belle,” under his Twilight Singers moniker, a sort of changing collaborative where Dulli has recorded with up to two dozen of the finest musicians in New Orleans and Los Angeles.
The album is classic Dulli, hearkening to the great party strains of classic pop/rock, but laced with brooding lyrics and metaphors that explore the seamy side of life. There are images of 3:30 in the morning on Sunset Boulevard; ashtrays overflow, and things aren’t quite right. Or are they? The real and the surreal meld in Dulli’s metaphysical world. Through it all, fans will find some of the best in-your-face sonic rock ‘n’ roll Dulli has ever made. He still sings as if you are being let in on some little secret.
Of course, with Dulli, it’s never clear what those secrets are and he has never been one to spill the beans as to what’s exactly happening in his music.
“There is a sincere and linear story being told from song to song, but that’s just for me,” he said with a laugh in a recent phone interview from his L.A. home.
“There is a beginning middle and end. Whether the listener finds it, that’s not up to me. I’ve done my part.”
The album is partly a result of Dulli being hard hit by the sudden death in January ’02 of his best friend, director Ted Demme. He had another very different album already written.
“I wasn’t ready for that album. It was a little too raucous and celebratory,” he said. “I bagged that and rewrote a whole different album.”
The Whigs officially broke up two years ago after Dulli’s interest had wandered, settling in L.A. and getting him involved in his first Twilight Singers project, released in 2000. Dulli said after the Whigs’ demise, he stopped playing music for almost a year and bought a bar in Echo Park, near Dodger Stadium.
“I was running it and bartending. I was Joe Lunchbox. Deejaying around town was the most music I played.”
That changes this fall as Dulli will tour with his Twilight Singers’ album fronting a five-piece band that comes to town Nov. 11 at the Southgate House, Newport.