The Portland Mercury
Greg Dulli Gets His Freak (and His Creep) On
by Ezra Ace Caraeff
As the one time singer of The Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli never really fit the roll of Grunge Frontman. Always more Al Green than Layne Staley, Dulli found himself in the odd position of being a soulful singer fronting a ’90s alternative rock band. The Whigs were way too intelligent and dangerous to be involved in that drab scene, but they did their part, released some powerful records and then called it a day, leaving Dulli to discover his place in the post-grunge world that soon forgot him. He opened a hipster bar in L.A., gave interviews in which he chatted only about Mary J. Blige, and released a lopsided Twilight Singers debut that got him dropped from Columbia Records. But through all these years of downtime, Dulli never really disappeared; he clung to the pop culture radar by just being himself–the creepy singer with the million-dollar voice. Everyone knew he would return; it was just a matter of when.
Three years later, with the newly formed Twilight Singers, he did return with this year’s Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair EP. The traditional title track, one that Nina Simone made famous years ago, is a dazzling, soulful rendition. It never strays too far from Simone, but it’s still sexy enough to be classic Dulli. Later this year, they released Blackberry Belle, a record that centers around Dulli’s debaucherous vocals and somber writing. As his sensual voice bounces along with rolling piano, subtle beats and the occasional polite explosion of guitars–Dulli feels relaxed. He’s still the same drunken lover in the naugahyde booth at some poorly lit bar he’s always been, but this time he’s dirtier than before, with each song playing out like a whispered proposition in your ear.
Blackberry Belle can be completely summed up by its opening line, a piano background that’s interrupted by the inebriated voice of Dulli as he moans, “Black out the windows/ It’s party time.” Eventually, distortion kicks in, guitars whirl and the album progresses–Dulli is hurt and Dulli hurts–all of which occur with incredible passion, from a man who’s somewhere between a hopeless romantic and a porn star saving it all for the big money shot. You love the man, but you can’t trust him. It’s nice to know that some things never change.