On Monday (May 10), we celebrated the birthday of one of the greatest rock frontmen of all time in U2’s Bono. Today, we raise a cyber toast to another amazing frontman and songwriter: Greg Dulli, the man behind Afghan Whigs, the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins. Dulli’s profile is certainly much smaller than Bono’s, but he is no less fascinating or talented.
A native of suburban Ohio, Dulli began his musical career in the late 1980s as the frontman of Afghan Whigs, a band who blended together elements of punk, R&B, ’70s rock and noisy underground rock for a unique, forward-thinking stew. They built a bit of buzz with their sweaty, savage live shows and their early albums Up In It and Congregation. But it was their major label debut Gentlemen that really scored big with critics and fans of the underground. Though they had some brushes with mainstream attention (“Debonair” and the title track both scored some airtime on MTV’s “120 Minutes”), they remained mostly on the fringes of the indie universe, playing to devoted crowds and putting out a string of darker, more complicated albums in 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965.
Afghan Whigs finally broke up in 2001, which freed up Dulli to explore a number of different sounds and genres with his project the Twilight Singers. Over the course of five albums, Dulli has laid out an incredible manifesto of R&B grooves, guitar squalls, sexy balladry and electronic freakiness, all of which serve to support his unique voice and lothario persona. It’s a character that is simultaneously adoring and wicked, which make his lyrics dark, passionate and literate.
That worldview continues with Dulli’s current project the Gutter Twins, a tag-team with former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan. Their songs are the soundtracks to smoke-filled after-hours clubs and whiskey-soaked regret, a fierce onslaught of hard rock, blues, industrial and psychedelia. Their two releases — the full-length debut Saturnalia and the EP Adorata — contained some of the best music of 2008, and Dulli’s worldview (most musically and lyrically) is clearly expressed in the song “All Misery.” Lanegan has the lead vocal, but it’s Dulli who fuels the fire.