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From Whigs to Twins: An iTunes Exclusive

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“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” — Oscar Wilde

Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan may have come from the gutter (whether this applies to the drain hole, that slurped-up grunge whole, or their mental/physical states at the time of formation) and merged in darkness, calling themselves “twins,” or the “Satanic Everly Brothers,” but they’ve always managed to avoid the wash-out — their latest offerings Saturnalia and Adorata are far from gutter-material and aren’t about compromise, perhaps implied by the name Gutter Twins or the blending of any two musical souls.

However, you’re right if you see darkness and plenty of sexy down their line (no worries, they won’t let this darkness eat them up). They just let their idle hands do what they do, produce “gothic blues,” apparently (if we haven’t twisted the message of “Idle Hands”). It’s the best thing, really.

But let’s start from the beginning. Quite awhile ago we began following Greg Dulli wherever we went, or wherever he went (not literally, of course, that would be borderline stalkerish), on semi-roundabout trips. See, Dulli has always appealed to the “grunge kid” in us, a kid that doesn’t want to grow up, though our first trip with the “psychosexual” alt-frontman was through 2006’s Powder Burns, the fourth product of post-Afghan Whigs-gig the Twilight Singers. We later backtracked through his back-catalogue on our BFF Amazon.com — discovering his non-Northwestern, Northwestern explosion band the Whigs and, of course, what jail and gentlemen are like — and loaded up our cart. Maybe we just smell a sweet fragrance about Mr. Dulli?

Either way, here’s a breakdown of why we broke down (to iTunes and, ultimately, the Gutter Twins):

First of all, our love for everything grunge and post-grunge allows room for any voice and lyrical mind that seems to combine Robert Smith, Tom Waits, Andy Wood, and Chris Robinson, as well as room for any man who decides to work with a band member from the Screaming Trees (who possessed a combination of quality loverock and metal, and garage and punk, and long hair and flannel, that could never be passed up). Needless to say, Lanegan’s Screaming Trees (which also went the way of the drain-hole, to the grunge kid’s dismay) haven’t gone unnoticed or un-played in our collection obsession, nor have they gone unshopped on our BFF. So, of course, we swallowed the hope of the Gutter Twins, a band named for the above quote from Oscar Wilde (that also signed themselves to Sub Pop along with many other grunge greats) and began asking ourselves questions. Some of our questions: There’s a song called “Belles” on Adorata, are the Twins trying to tell us something? Do they know they misspelled our last name? Would our own twindom be defined as gutter twindom — are we too, gutter twins? And if so, does this have to do with the fact that we may be the only two souls left for dead in iPod circles? Wow, Dulli and Lanegan are so perceptive.

Well, we must let Mr. Dulli know that, even though, yes, we do not own iPods, meaning, yes, we do not have a need for iTunes, we specifically downloaded iTunes to purchase the Gutter Twins’ exclusive EP (the aforementioned Adorata) released in September. A lot of musicians are going the way of the exclusive iTunes release and we support those band boys, of course, but we’re two very old-fashioned gals when it comes to tunes.

We love records (LPs! Vinyl lives!) and what we dig, most of all, are hard copies of music (you can’t hold or frame an MP3, after all). Those booklets (err, liner notes?) that come with CDs? We actually leaf through those, reading and memorizing their lyrics, posting them on MySpace (as music-geeky as that sounds) and using them in life, hence our adoption of the phrase “songs to live and learn by,” which was sort of stolen from Echo and the Bunnymen. We even read those “Thank You” sections, perhaps to track down other possible musicians we might like based on our favorites’, well, favorites, (yes, we’re fans of those too)!

But at some point in the early 2000’s, we saw darkness down the line and it is all about compromise, this relationship we have with music. So we gave in, the music always wins, just like that grunge kid (we purchased some iTunes online, for the very first time).

Second of all, in a way, the music always lets us win too. Adorata, an eight song EP that includes covers by Jose Gonzalez, Eleven, Primal Scream, Scott Walker, and Vetiver, further proves that the Gutter Twins do share more than their rightful share of darkness, and that what feels like forever (the intro to “Belles”) often goes away too fast… bells will chime in their own time, damn it! Dulli and Lanegan combine, not compromising, but collaborating, even jointly penning songs (which is familiar to the “twin” tag, whether one likes it or not), to create what can only be termed The Big Sexy (especially on Dulli’s side of the Gutter, see the Twilight Singers’ “Clyde;” or Saturnailia’s “Idle Hands,” and you’ll understand that he’s definitely the devil’s play thing, baby). But this is not to be confused with the WCW’s Kevin Nash, mind you.

Anyway, Adorata basically carries on Saturnalia’s nearly cryptic air. If you, like us, smelled a sweet fragrance about Dulli on Saturnalia, that alluring stench is still unmistakable here, even when the pair borrows from its influences, covering six out of eight tracks that might as well be their own. The EP is a pre-cursor to Saturnalia really, recorded almost entirely during said LP’s sessions, which perhaps, set, and, fingers crossed, grounded the duo, for continuing collaborations. Because, we’ll just say it, offering something new (2 previously unreleased tracks), borrowed (6 covers) and brilliantly bluesy (just listen to “St. James Infirmary” or “We Have Met Before”), Adorata verges on musical matrimony, or at least the very next best thing — a mutually beneficial relationship for all partners involved (including us fans). Clearly, it’s safe to say that we all have a little gutter in us, and some bands are just better at bringing out our stars. And we guess this means we’ve answered some of our own questions.

Third of all, and off topic, these twins are hoping to catch-up with the Gutter Twins at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on February 10. And, because we do have an idealistic tendency to look at the stars, we're sort of hoping a couple of tickets will soon fall our way.

Okay, we guess that’s the whole all.

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About Jessica and Kady Bell