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All things Greg Dulli


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#1 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 10:39 AM

I have a love / hate relationship with Greg Dulli, though it tends to lean toward love. Yes, swaggering ladies' man persona (and the lyrics to boot) have always made me recoil, and he has a tendency to drop at least one or two collosal failures per album (at least). But when he's on, he's on.

Dulli's best-known band was The Afghan Whigs. While they flirted with mainstream popularity during the grunge heyday, they were too...well, too idiosyncratic to fit in. They played this weird fusion of '60s soul and grunge (with hints of country...lead guitarist Rick McCollum almost exclusively played with a slide), and Dulli's lyrics alternated between cooing come-ons and barbed jests.

After they broke up, Dulli went on to form The Twilight Singers. He used it as a platform to do whatever he wanted: release a dark electronica album, dive into straight-up soul-rock, record collections of covers, etc. And while he's keeping that project alive, he recently recorded an album with Mark Lanegan, the raspy baritone behind the Screaming Trees (he also did some solo and duet work, notably with Hope Sandival from Mazzy Star, and he also was a part of Queens of the Stone Age briefly). Dulli and Lanegan's new project is called the Gutter Twins. The name speaks volumes, but they sound best loud.

I've always been fascinated with Dulli, especially as a songwriter. He's a really hamfisted musician, but in a madcap way (I read a Guitar World interview with him from the '90s where he's trying to staff writers his favorite chord, and they have no clue what he's trying to do). He voices bares the stains of decades of smokes and booze, but he slings it around like he's Al Green's lost (white) brother. And as hard to swallow as some of his lyrics are, there's some truth buried in there.

#2 J. Henry Waugh

J. Henry Waugh

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 03:33 PM

I'm sorry this thread hasn't taken off as I was hoping to learn a bit more about Dulli. Afghan Whigs was one of those bands that I always read about back in the 90s, but only heard once or twice. This will come as a shock to our children, but you had to actually pay money to hear a lot music back in those days. I remember that articles focused on the more extreme nature of some of his lyrics even back then--I have the impression that his persona was the opposite of the stereotypical mopey grunge rocker.

I have loved the Gutter Twins album quite a bit. I bought it because I want to hear everything from Mark Lanegan, but I like Dulli's contributions throughout the album as well.

#3 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 04:15 PM

I have loved the Gutter Twins album quite a bit. I bought it because I want to hear everything from Mark Lanegan, but I like Dulli's contributions throughout the album as well.


Here's a good idea of some Dulli albums to check out (take it or leave it as you will!):

Ones to get

The Afghan Whigs — Gentlemen. I'd argue that this, their debut on Elektra, is their most focused moment (others will argue that the band's SubPop swan song Congregation is that moment, but I digress). Some of Dulli's best lyrical bits are here, and songs like the title track, the creepily beautiful "Be Sweet" (sample lyric: "Ladies, let me tell you about myself: I got a dick for a brain, and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you"), "What Jail Is Like," and the midnight cover of Tyrone Davis's "I Keep Coming Back" is something otherworldly. But the best tune might be "My Curse," with Scrawl frontwoman Marcy Mays on vocals. It's the band in a nutshell, even without Dulli singing: kind of sexy, kind of creepy, as Craig Finn once said.

The Afghan Whigs — 1965. The band's last album is their least brooding, as if the New Orleans recording location seeped into the recording. There are tracks like "Crazy," which add a little lazy fun into the mix (maybe it was Alex Chilton's appearance on the track); and tunes like the slightly Moroccan-flavored "Citi Soleil" ... and it has what sounds like a entire city block worth of people chiming in. The album might be their most R&B influenced, partially because bassist John Curley and drummer Michal Horrigan lock into this tasty groove on lots of the songs.

The Twilight Singers — Powder Burns. The entire album is basically an attempt to make a 40-some minute long chorus. It kind of works. Some of the tracks are Dulli at his best: "40 Dollars" is a swaggering, hand-clapping mess that warps an early Beatles lyric into something very, very different from what the Fab Four intended. "Candy Cane Crawl" is like a slow and smoky exhalation, an anti-cocaine song that sounds like it was written on a last high. The album is chock full of eerie samples, late-night Rhodes piano lines, e-Bows, Dulli's R&B bellowing, blown-speaker guitar meddling.

Dulli's best entry-level album, though, is Black Love: it's basically a noir film in album format. Dulli usually seems to see albums more like a film than a collection of songs, but this one is filled front-to-back with tales of femme fatales, crime sprees, racial tension ("Honky's Ladder" could've been a Roots song, honestly), and — amazingly — forgiveness.

#4 Jason Panella

Jason Panella

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 10:50 AM

The Afghan Whigs reunited not too long ago, and are playing a bunch of festival shows this summer. They just released their first new recording in five years, a cover of Marie "Queenie" Lyons's soul tune "See and Don't See," and played that tune on Jimmy Fallon a few nights ago (with ?uestlove on drums). (They also played "I'm Her Slave," which — to me — doesn't sound 20 years old.)

Spin also has a nice write-up of their first reunion show, which happened last night in NYC.

I have to say, Rick McCollum is maybe one of the great underrated guitarists of the '90s. Glad to see him in action again.

Edited by Jason Panella, 24 May 2012 - 10:57 AM.