Greg Dulli, recently of Twilight Singers and formerly of Afghan Whigs, doesn’t have a pleasant voice. It’s whiny, sometimes a little weak, and occasionally it only approximates the right key.
But, yeah, I like it.
The Twilight Singers last release, Blackberry Belle, was a classic. A great rock album that showed all of Dulli’s various influences and showcased his strengths–seductively sleazy rock, catchy hooks, and those off-kilter lyrics–in a mix that was probably the best of his many efforts. It ranked easily as one of the best releases of 2003.
This new album, She Loves You, is more of a flawed masterpiece. This one is a collection of covers (oddly, missing a version of the title song) that covers everything from old blues (“Hard Time Killing Floor”) to contemporary pop ( Martina Topley-Bird’s “Too Tough to Die”). The choice of songs is eclectic and intriguing with “Summertime” comes as a particularly odd choice.
In Dulli’s hands, with Mark Lanegan on backing vocals, the classic “Strange Fruit” stands as an angry, harsh hi-light to the album–loud, aggressive, powerful music that works perfectly. And while that is hardly the only good song on the CD, the problem is that some of the songs never quite fit. “Summertime,” for instance, moves along at a slow pace and Dulli’s vocals–weak and whisper thin–can’t carry off the sultry qualities that you just know are hidden in the song.
The music and arrangements are almost uniformly excellent, but there are a handful of songs that just don’t fit. Bjork’s “Hyperballad” is one of those songs; while the music makes it sound like something that would have fit on Blackberry, the vocals sound just off enough that you could never mistake this for one of Dulli’s own songs.
The disc as a whole is definitely a keeper. If not quite the master stroke of Blackberry, it’s still a strong artistic statement. Dulli may not be everyone’s idea of a singer, but he’s a musician of rare capacity. If not every experiment works, the effort is still appreciated.
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