Friday, February 29th, 2008
Photo by Sam Holden
Though I came of age in the early ’90s, neither the Screaming Trees nor Afghan Whigs figured heavily into my musical development. I dug a few of the singles from each but I just couldn’t relate to their brand of bellowing angst – was more of a moper than a shouter. Did I say was?
Even though it’s been some 15 years since either band reached their commercial peaks with Sweet Oblivion and Gentlemen respectively, the frontmen from each band have never stepped out of the public eye. Mark Lanegan has carved out a critically acclaimed solo career in addition to his duties as a sometime-Queen Of The Stone Age and unlikely duet partner with Isobel Campbell while Greg Dulli has been a Twilight Singer for as long as he was an Afghan Whig and now the pair, who’ve worked together before in the Twilight Singers, are set to release the first album from their long-percolating collaboration as The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia, out Tuesday. And hell, if you’ve been waiting a long time for this? It was worth it.
It’s hard to imagine a situation in which Greg Dulli would be the good cop, but here – even though his vocals drip with the greasy soul and anguished lasciviousness that have long been his hallmark, they can’t withstand Lanegan’s weight of a thousand tombstones baritone. When he steps in, it’s like every light in the room dims and the temperature drops by ten degrees. The man has presence. They both do. And together, whether trading lead vocals or in harmony, they’ve produced a record that stands as one of the finer pure rock records I’ve heard in ages. Dominated by huge guitars (“Idle Hands” is an apocalypse I could get into) but also drenched in piano, strings and mellotron – this is no collection of home demos cobbled together – Saturnalia is grandiose but never loses the rawness or darkness that gives it its crackling vibrancy. Of course, when you’ve got two singers who sound like their concert rider could consist of nothing but whiskey and gravel, how could it? The songwriting drips with blues and soul with dashes of Americana and shows two veteran songwriters still restless, still searching and still not the kind of guys you’d want to run into in a dark alley. Absolutely bracing.
You can stream the whole album on their MySpace and they kick off their North American tour tomorrow at Noise Pop in San Francisco, with a Toronto date on March 14 at the Mod Club. There’s not many things that could make me wish I was here at home that week rather than eating tortilla-wrapped foodstuffs in Austin, but this show is one of them. And there’s a terrific feature on Lanegan in the new issue of Magnet, featuring conversations with many of his collaborators over the years as well as the man himself.
Thinking about heading to the ElMo this Sunday night to see Headlights and Evangelicals, aren’t that familiar with either band and don’t have a lot of time to spare? Have no fear – just check out the track below wherein Headlights cover Evangelicals. If you like the performance and the songwriting, it’s win-win. If you don’t like either… well there’s a new episode of The Simpsons on. You could watch that.
Entertainment Weekly has the tracklisting for the Heroes soundtrack, out March 18, which will feature artists such as Bob Dylan, Wilco and the first new Jesus & Mary Chain single in a decade. None of which changes the fact that it’s a terrible show.
Canadian Music Week hits next week and while we, as a city, haven’t cottoned to the culture of the day show yet – and probably never will – we have rather taken to the art of the in-store. Just consider the many mergers of live performance and retail next week: On Thursday, March 6 at 5PM you have Immaculate Machine at Soundscapes, then it’s a quick jaunt on the Bathurst 511 to Sonic Boom where Matthew Barber will be playing in the basement at 7PM. Then on March 7, Attack In Black will make those same wood-paneled walls rattle with a show at 7PM. Laura Barrett will serenade Soundscapes on Saturday the 8th at 4PM and then on Sunday at 4PM, once you’ve recovered from whatever CMW hangover you’re nursing, head back to Soundscapes for a show from Forest City Lovers. Yes? Yes.
And not an in-store, but there might be a merch table – Emily Haines plays the Phoenix on March 30.
And here’s something to wind out the week… new Iron Man trailer. May 2. Yes.
Trailer: Iron Man