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Greg Dulli: Interpretive Dance

Illinois Entertainer

— Steve Forstneger

Greg Dulli is an anachronism — always has been, always will be. As the frontman for The Afghan Whigs, one of indie rock’s most notorious bands, he cemented a reputation of full-bore machismo and chauvinism in a world full of meek regular Joes looking to bridge the sexist gaps inherent to rock ‘n’ roll’s first four decades. After the Whigs’ demise he kept the persona in a pseudo-solo project, The Twilight Singers, and left his resolve and devilish charm unhidden.

Running concurrently was his infatuation with soul covers. Other indie rock bands were stubborn in their artistic pursuits, covering songs with the intent to exalt forgotten punk bands who gave them the courage to pick up guitars and go DIY crazy. Not Dulli. The Whigs filled their sets with gyrating soul covers — from “Superstition” to “Little Red Corvette” to TLC’s “Creep” — and even offered up a contract-fulfilling EP to Sub Pop Records full of ’60s soul covers seemingly to antagonize those who thought they owed more to The Replacements than to Al Green.

Nowadays Dulli is older — old, some might say — and he’s at it again, this time with a stop-gap release under The Twilight Singers moniker. Dubbed She Loves You (One Little Indian), it aims to confuse people who thought they had his influences nailed and reinvigorate anyone out to peg Dulli as an opportunist ham of a showman.

“I prefer to call them ‘interpretations,'” he says matter-of-factly and, incidentally, well aware of any eyes that might roll. “Covering is just going out and doing ‘Jailbreak’ by Thin Lizzy exactly like they did it — that’s covering. Interpreting is taking that song and making it into something yourself. I have no interest in re-doing something somebody did and especially something somebody did very well.”

Dulli, for all the preemptive heckling and steal-your-girlfriend posturing he has inflicted over the years, has a case. Be it the Uptown Avondale EP “interpretation” of Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold” or this most recent take on Björk’s “Hyper-Ballad,” there’s little to be had here in similarity sans the lyrics. He has gone the ’60s route (check either Love’s or Hendrix’ “Hey Joe,” Percy Sledge’s or Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness”).

“That’s what it’s supposed to do,” he says. “Martina Topley-Bird few people know. I loved her solo record, it just got released in America for the first time after over a year — and anything I could do [“Too Tough To Die”] to just get her name out there . . . I make no publishing off a cover record or interpretive record. I did it just for the joy of it and I did it really quickly. I mean the last thing we did as the Whigs for Sub Pop was a covers EP and it was the first time I had started to like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna completely redo these songs.’ Like when I did the Skip Spence song for the Skip Spence More Oar record. To do ‘Dixie Peach Promenade’ just like he did . . . why? He already did it. My version, other than the words, you’d never recognize it. That’s what you should do. Chan Marshall, the Cat Power girl, her record [The Covers Record] was fucking fabulous. There’s so many great songs out there and there’s so many other ways to do them than they’ve been done. Doing them like they’ve been done — don’t get me wrong, I’ll get drunk and play ‘LaGrange’ by ZZ Top, which is a Slim Harpo rip-off anyway that The Stones did on Exile — but the constant passing of things that turned you on through the ranks, that’s what keeps rock ‘n’ roll young. That’s what keeps me young . . .

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