Blackberry Belle – AllMusic
Greg Dulli returns to his Twilight Singers project with the atmospheric Blackberry Belle.
This time around, the dirtily soulful self-hater/lover is joined at one point or another by multi-instrumentalist Mathias Schneeberger, guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, the incomparable Petra Haden, and Mark Lanegan, who takes main vocal duties for the shadowy devil of closer “Number Nine.” Apollonia even makes an appearance as a backing vocalist for a few tracks.
Somehow, even with its grainy appropriations of trip-hop (especially “Teenage Wristband,” which sounds like a holdover from the first half of the Singers’ 2000 debut), everything on Blackberry Belle begins to eventually sound like Leonard Cohen. The moody black-and-white palm tree cover art is no joke — this is an album that views sunlight through the cracked blinds of a claustrophobic hotel lounge. “There’s a riot goin’ on/Inside of me/Won’t you come inside/See what I see?,” “I think we’re lost, don’t worry/I’ve been here before,” “If you’re in trouble then I’ll follow” — it’s melancholy and death wishes in the first person here, and love only exists as a means to a bitter end.
These are themes that Dulli has made a habit of discussing; nevertheless, they’re made newly potent over Blackberry’s dusky, shifting rhythms. Things are too scary to be danceable, although the album definitely has a groove. “Decatur St.” mixes Massive Attack with Afghan Whigs, while “Follow You Down” is shimmering and stripped-down, with only frail guitar and piano to guide its death wish lyrics. Drummer Moore injects some funk into “Feathers,” and “Esta Noche” finds the inherent beat in a European dial tone. Quietly building opener “Martin Eden” might make the defining statement of the record with its initial lines: “Black out the windows/It’s party time.” Cohen’s melancholy is coursing through Dulli’s tortured veins; it’s good to see that he’s still getting top-notch talent to aid in the nightly bloodletting.