Monday, May 22, 2017

Forces of darkness

Back in 2008, Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli joined forces as the Gutter Twins for an album (Saturnalia) and a live experience that didn't quite live up to high expectations. This year, the pair - the legendary frontmen of Screaming Trees and Afghan Whigs - released new records within a week of each other.

First to land was Lanegan's solo effort Gargoyle, which was an instant hit around these parts. That rich, low voice is always a delight and the gloomy lyrical subject matter is no surprise, but the album continues where 2012's Blues Funeral left off (there's a hole the size of 2014's Phantom Radio in my collection) in its use of electronics and synths, thanks in large part to the influence of regular collaborator Alain Johannes. The gothy 'Nocturne' is great, but 'Beehive' is even better - it must be galling for Jim and William Reid to know that not only have they not released the best album this year, they've not even released the best Jesus & Mary Chain song.

Meanwhile, Dulli's offering - In Spades, the second LP released by Afghan Whigs since they reformed in 2011 - has taken much more time to sink in, to the extent that I was almost ready to write it off. But the glut of enthusiastic reviews like the one written by my fellow Nightshift scribe Sam Shepherd for MusicOMH convinced me to persist - and I've been rewarded. The sleazy, black-hearted 'Demon In Profile' is classic Whigs (and the video - featuring women in gold jumpsuits, bloody knives and spider eating - answers the question "Whatever happened to Har Mar Superstar?") and there are several other very good tracks, particularly 'Copernicus' and intense album-closer 'Into The Floor'.

For Lanegan and Dulli, then, it's a triumphant return apiece.

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