Amber Headlights is the bridge between Greg Dulli's two worlds and his two bands.
Formed after meeting in a Cincinnati prison cell, Dulli's first band Afghan Whigs viciously fought each other as much as they did the Sub Pop grunge of their early 90s label mates. They made knife to throat music couched in Trax soul and offered the soundtrack for all shades of infidelity, most notably on their 1993 masterpiece Gentlemen.
Although the first Twilight Singers album had been a side project before the Whigs broke up in 2001, Amber Headlights, recorded throughout that year, was consciously Dulli's first attempt at bareback riding where his opinion alone on where the songs were heading would be his only point of reference. That's if you don't include feedback from a close friend.
But it was the sudden cardiac arrest death of his very close friend, the film maker Ted Demme, that threw the release plans for this album into a box shoved under the bed in the spare room. In the four years since, much has been said about whether it was ever meant for release, but here it now is, to do or die.
Where touches of gentle and intense deftness have coloured Twilight Singer's releases, there is a catalogue of unsophisticated crassness in this album's narrative and it's quite possible that the title itself is a euphemism for tits. Okay Greg, we catch your agenda. But we know Dulli loves women; is in awe of them even - so it's no surprise that when he stood at his experimental chalk board, he'd do some rudie drawings to hang his new and scary freedoms on. "I used to love you / now I'm going to hurt you" from 'Early Today (and Later Tonight)' is little more than a cliché from the Whigs canon - something to titillate, to repulse; something done so much better on 'Gentlemen'.
The album has ample support in the music department from members of Gigolo Aunts, Nine Inch Nails and others, so there's plenty of testosterone flying from the CD in support of this overgrown bad boy on his road trip. He just feels like smoking himself to death, driving over the horizon (and then the next one) while enjoying the delights of female company on the way. But don't be cross with him. He's a good boy really and he loves his mother. Having got a few things straight after this free and easy studio work-out, a 2002 release should have paved the way for his new persona but as it is, this journey is now out of time and out of kilter - especially with the new Twilight Singers album Powder Burns, due out in May.
6Jane Oriel's Score