Blackberry Belle – Dimple
Former Afghan Whigs frontman makes hot new band from old side gig.
By Brian Baker
Greg Dulli is a contemporary rock and roll shaman, Jim Morrison without the self-aggrandizing Lizard King mythology, Nick Cave without the hyperliterate pretense. He accesses his primal inner John Lennon and his soulful inner Marvin Gaye at the turn of and sometimes within the same musical phrase. Dulli’s long and checkered stint with Afghan Whigs established him as one of rock’s most visceral and polarizing frontmen, a passionate if somewhat uneven vocalist whose frenetic delivery often outweighed his flawed but brilliantly expressive voice.
The Twilight Singers, Dulli’s rotating cast of twisted musical cohorts, was initially conceived as a Whigs side project, but with the group’s 1999 dissolution, the Singers have become Dulli’s new full-time concern. The Singers’ 2000 debut, Twilight as Played by the Twilight Singers, began as an adjunct to the Whigs’ sound but morphed into a dreamy and hypnotic beat-driven affair with help from ambient rangers Fila Brazillia. With the Whigs a fleetingly powerful memory, Dulli transforms the Twilight Singers from quaint side gig into massively grooved and nuanced band with the magnificent Blackberry Belle.
Blackberry Belle is both a throwback to Dulli’s Whigs roots and an extension of his sonic advances on the Twilight Singers’s debut. The Whigs’s moody, eclectic noise rock is well represented (“Martin Eden,” “Esta Noche”) as is Dulli’s subtler Twilight shades of ambient throb pop (“The Killer,” “Decatur St.”). The treat here is the manner in which Dulli stitches the two sonic worlds together, evidenced on the cleverly titled “Teenage Wristband,” where the song’s delicate piano riff plays cat and mouse with sheets of careening rock splendor. Nothing on Blackberry Belle will change Dulli’s love-him-or-hate-him status in the rock community, but for those who adore him, this album shows him in full and confident command of the talents that won him that devotion