Blackberry Belle – Spin

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Spin Magazine
February ’04

–CHRIS RYAN

First line of Blackberry Belle, Greg Dulli’s latest dose of pimped-out,
bipolar catharsis: “Black out the windows/ It’s party time.” By Dulli’s
standards, this means everything’s peachy. For more than a decade–first
with his band the Afghan Whigs, then with the more-or-less-solo Twilight
Singers–Dulli’s M.O. has been pretty much the same: sex, drugs, emotional
terrorism, guilt, redemption, repeat. He’s one part pagan Anne Rice and one
part Catholic Graham Greene hero, and he writes killer songs, too, swiping
all the right moves from ’80s indie rock and ’70s R&B.

Blackberry Belle abandons the coffeehouse trip-hop affectations of the
Twilight Singers’ debut; many of the glistening rock songs here wouldn’t
have sounded out of place on the Whigs’ awesome swan song, 1965. “Teenage
Wristband” slyly quotes the hook and keyboard line from the Who’s “Baba
O’Riley,” although the tone–especially when Dulli’s object of affection
asks him, “You wanna go for a ride?”–is closer to a speed-addled remake of
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

But it’s the quieter moments, peppered with funeral-parlor humor, that
really resonate. The autobiographical “St. Gregory” (“I heard your woman
left you/ I heard you quit your band”) and the lilting one-two punch of
“Papillion” and “Follow You Down” hit like barbiturates and wine. On “Fat
City (Slight Return),” he asks himself, “Why you watch a car wreck,
motherfucker?” then blankly replies, “‘Cuz it looks fun to die.” It’s best
to think of Dulli as a tour guide through the parts of the human experience
most of us would prefer to avoid–the crashes, the come-downs, the mornings
after. “I think we’re lost,” he mutters at one point, only to reassure us:
“Don’t worry–I’ve been here before.”

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