Review Summary: You wanna go for a ride?
There are probably at least twenty Decatur Streets in the world, so the one in Atlanta where I used to live is probably not the one Greg Dulli croons about on Blackberry Belle
. But the possibility, however small, is startling. Dulli is so incredibly effective at conjuring his own experiences into story format that his songs become surreal-- surely one person couldn’t actually have gone through all of this? And God forbid if it happened across the street from my apartment.
is Dulli and company’s second post-Afghan Whigs stab at alternative rock. The album manages to transcend the genre not by avoiding its clichés, but embracing them. The themes of sex and drugs are not themes here--they’re a lifestyle, and a miserable one at that.
Because Dulli is a miserable character. Blackberry Belle
oozes grime and hedonism and pain, but most of all it oozes pleasure, to the point where we’re actually questioning if it’s really pain at all that he’s feeling. For Dulli, there comes a certain pleasure within his endless cycle of empty sex and heartbreak--the routine. It sounds damn near torturous, but it’s something.
There’s no way to make his pain more accessible than to hitch it to the back of a few behemoth tracks. “The Killer”, for one, pulsates harmlessly for a while before erupting into a tale of heartbreak so severe that it transcends mental and becomes physical torment. “Teenage Wristband”, the album’s centerpiece, boasts a huge, piano-fueled chorus that explodes as Dulli leers “I’ve got no more money to burn, and I’m gonna stay up all night.” It sounds downright appealing.
Over time, the group has gradually evolved into a sleeker, more easily digestible outlet--a welcome shift, if only for the fact that Dulli has likely exorcised some of his personal demons--but Blackberry Belle
stands alone in The Twilight Singers’ discography. It’s not necessarily the group’s best work, but it’s probably their most genuine and undoubtedly their most gripping.