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WAKING UP

The Twilight Singers: Powder Burns

Desc:CD REVIEW: ARTIST: The Twilight Singers
Label:One Little Indian
Format:Album
Media:CD
Genre:Rock/Pop

Who would have expected this? Greg Dulli — longtime caricature of post-grunge, stained-tuxedo-shirt excess — leaves his post as the twice-lit cigarette butt in the corner of a neon-bar hallucination, only to re-emerge as a competent rock hero atop a driving wave of power chords and seamless production.

Powder Burns, the fourth album from Dulli’s pluralized alias, the Twilight Singers, heralds a Bold New Beginning from the former Afghan Whig, and he’s not afraid to talk about it.

“I put some habits to sleep,” he says over the phone. “I kind of approached it as a newborn baby. It’s very new to me to record without my ‘friends,’ know what I’m sayin’? It was kind of a new experience to me to actually be present during the recording of a record of mine.

“That’s kind of why not only did we begin recording the record in New Orleans, but we finished it there. I saw a parallel between what I was feeling and what the city was feeling.”

Metaphoric sentimentality aside, Powder Burns seethes with exactly the sort of lasting discomfort its title implies, crushing any potential for a million little whines of rehabilitated self-pity with epic walls of sound and Dulli’s signature desperation wail. Deftly produced by Mike Napolitano and buoyed by collaborations with Joseph Arthur (also produced by Napolitano) and Ani DiFranco (girlfriend of, well, Napolitano), Dulli has never sounded as pertinent or realized as he does here.

Muted trumpets, hand-claps, string flourishes and gospel choirs creep in and sneak away as Dulli battles the age-old demons of a medicated reality like he’s living a movie. (The Wall, perhaps?) But somehow he strikes just the right balance of bombast and subtle reflection to make the emotional exhaustion comfortably contagious, as if to say that this is the best — or last — album ever. Twilight, indeed.

But what of the elusive moniker? Is Greg Dulli the Twilight Singers?

“Well, I’ll tell you. Mark E. Smith from The Fall said something in an interview that I loved. Somebody asked him, ‘Who is The Fall?’ And he said, ‘If it’s me and your grandmother playing bongos, it’s The Fall.’ So to paraphrase Mark E. Smith here, if it’s me and your grandmother playing bongos, then it’s the Twilight Singers.”

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