The Gutter Twins



by Nick Butler EMERITUS
May 18th, 2008 | 14 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A Screaming Tree and an Afghan Whig make sweet musical love.

Say what you like about Greg Dulli's music, but you've got to at least give him credit for one thing; he's very good at naming things. Gentlemen, a concept album about a man who was anything but, was undoubtedly lent an extra edge by a title that suggested that all men were, at heart, just like the album's confused, abusive, self-destructive protagonist. Black Love's dual meaning was perfect for the music within - not only were the songs stories of dark-hearted, film-noir style lust, but they were performed over music that revealed just deep The Afghan Whigs' appreciation of black music went. And then, of course, they basically wrote a Motown album and named it 1965, the year when the label was at its commercial peak.

That careful consideration of the first impression a name can make has continued since the Whigs split. The seemingly innocently named Twilight Singers heralded a move away from the hyper-sexed Dulli of the past (however slight that move was at times), a move which seemed to reach a logical conclusion on "I'm Ready", the crucial track on his last offering Powder Burns (an album largely about cocaine). On that track, the man who's written some of the greatest anti-love songs ever sang, seemingly without irony, 'I'm ready to love somebody', before launching headfirst into an earnest rendition of "She Loves You" by The Beatles. A new Dulli? A sensitive Dulli? I can't have been the only fan more than a little disappointed.

So thank the Lord that his new band are called The Gutter Twins. A name that instantly lets you know what's going down - it's going to be dark, it's going to be sexy, it's going to be dangerous. That's more like it!

The Gutter Twins are a collaborative effort between Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, he of Screaming Trees/Isobel Campbell/Queens of the Stone Age/'the grunge Tom Waits' fame. This isn't the first time they've been paired up - the original concept for The Twilight Singers was to unite the voices of Dulli, Lanegan, and Brad's under-rated Shawn Smith, and Lanegan has contributed vocals to a handful of Twilight Singers tracks since. Predictably, they've been labelled a 'grunge supergroup', which in itself is remarkable - if you consider all the dead people, and discard the efforts of artists who've lost all their credibility by lazily reuniting and releasing sub par albums, just how many good grunge artists are left? When Scott Stapp and Silverchair begin to look like serious answers to that question, you know things are bad.

Don't mistake this for a grunge album though. For a start, it's simply too sexy. Both Dulli and Lanegan have plied their trade for years off the back of their barely-veiled sexuality, and that played a large part in distinguishing their respective bands from every other grunge band in the first place. Dulli's effortlessly cool braggadocio was the kind of foreplay every man wishes they were capable of, while Lanegan's naturally gravelly, intimate voice sometimes sounds like he's whispering sweet, powerful nothings even when he's singing a song as patently un-sexy as "Strange Fruit". It wouldn't surprise in the slightest if, deep down, these two men each wished they were more like the other. And yet, for whatever reason, Saturnalia seems sexy almost in spite of itself. The music is suitably dark and sultry, sure, but the abstracted lyrics and the mixing of the two voices (and subsequent weakening of the impact of either) mean that the signals get a little crossed over somewhere in the mix.

Secondly, there's too many sonic diversions that wouldn't have worked on a grunge album proper. "The Body" and "Front Street" are acoustic numbers that are murky yet uncharacteristically pretty, the excellent "Circle The Fringes" offers up mournful, exotic strings and a fretless bass, and "Each To Each" plays with some of the ideas left over from Dulli's excursions into trip-hop with Fila Brazilia and DJ Muggs. Still, if "Idle Hands" had been released at the height of grunge, people would still be listening to it today - it's a brilliant song no matter how you slice it, forced forward by a glammy riff that sticks out like a sore thumb amidst everything else here. It's not hard to imagine that this track was bashed out in a rehearsal while every other was carefully written in the studio - it's just that much more immediate than anything else here. The remaining 11 tracks surrounding it require more patience and curiosity on the part of the listener, yet the swampy, lacivious charms of each one reveal themselves in time.

If there's a flaw to Saturnalia, it's that anybody who's been a fan of these two artists for any period of time will know that this could have been better than it is. Certainly both have conjured better music seperately, and their voices have been combined to better effect on previous recordings. Even so, this represents a new territory for both Dulli and Lanegan, and it's one that they (generally) excel in. The excitement about this collaboration will probably cause people to exclaim that it's their best album since Black Love/Dust. It's not - it's just their best since She Loves You/Ballad of the Broken Seas - but even so it's still another notch on the bedpost for two artists who have both quietly and determinedly built up a seriously impressive back catalogue.

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user ratings (42)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 1st 2008


yeah, this album rules. the vocals contrast each other beautifully. 'the body' is often.

March 1st 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

I was hoping a summary like that would get more attention >=(

But yeah, this is a strong 3.5 with a real possibility of becoming a 4. Really really good album.

March 1st 2008


oh hey this review

March 1st 2008


i forgot what i was going to say but anyway

March 1st 2008


I still haven't heard this but I can't imagine it not being sick. I'll check it out this week.

March 1st 2008


I checked out Gentlemen the other day, pretty good album. Be Sweet and What Jail is Really Like are early favourites. Nice writing as usual.

March 2nd 2008


Now this kind of summary gets people's attention. I am really interested in this, considering I really like Screaming Tree, and what little of what I've heard of any Afgan Whig has been good.

Electric City
March 2nd 2008


I've not been a huge fan of the Afghan Whigs, so I probably won't look this up.

Digging: Foxing - Dealer

March 3rd 2008


I agree with you whole-heartedly. It's pretty awesome, but as a massive Dulli fan, I know HE can do better. Lanegan is pretty awesome too, but has also done better. I'm going to see these guys on the 12th though, and I know it will be stunning. It's a classic album for a fan, but not in the whole scheme of musical history.

Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2008


great review though

April 15th 2008


As far as first impressions go I'd agree. My first listen left me thinking, that's it?

After a month with the album, however, I still cannot stop listening to some songs. All Misery/Flowers, Each to Each, Circle the Fringes, Idle Hands, The Stations, even Bete Noir and God's Children still grab my attention. The strength of Saturnalia is the depth of the music.

April 16th 2008


i'm on my first listen, and i'm really liking it. there's a lot of really dark imagery, and the whole bluesy, brooding atmosphere is great (with a few upbeat patches to offset it nicely).

i didn't really have any expectations as such - i've got a copy of 1965, and i bought the trees' greatest hits, but i've not really listened to either too heavily. i'm thinking maybe i should though.

April 18th 2008


you know how many times greg dulli and forms of the word sex come up the same sentence in this review fucking fanboy

August 8th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

As a massive Lanegan fan and someone who has just got really into the Afghan Whigs, having just bought this, im fucking excited. Im sure it'll be great

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