I think the ideal conditions for reviewing an album include listening to it half a dozen times in quick succession and then putting it away, and then picking it up for another few listens a week or two later. On a well-produced record, you really hear things that in that second phase that you missed on the first few runs. The problem is, if you’re interested in having your review read by people, that kind of process is going to mean that you’re either the last idiot to jump on the train, or that you’re some contrarian hipster douche. Thankfully, our ethos here at WYMA doesn’t include such indulgences as ‘wanting to get read by people’ or that sort of thing. For example, next week, I’m going to review the latest Spin Doctors album. Watch me.
So fate has decreed that I have been able to let the new Twilight Singers album ferment an appropriate time since its February release, and now, after a second round of listens, I can say confidently that this is one of those records that will be in my rotation ten or twenty years from now. Greg Dulli and I were born within 10 days of each other, which makes him old enough to be referred to as a national treasure. And dammit if he isn’t, having given us gems like “White Trash Party” which is in frequent rotation twenty years after it was released. Since that album, “Up in It”, he and his bands have produced at such a high artistic level that terrific albums like this new one get nothing near the exposure they deserve. I remember several years ago wondering why ‘Teenage Wristband’ wasn’t played every ten minutes on every Clear Channel station, and thinking that the obscurity of such a perfect pop song is Exhibit A of what’s wrong with the music industry.
‘Dynamite Steps’ ought to sell a million copies, or units, or whatever the hell they’re called. It won’t, though, because of the tyranny of high expectations. This album is not demonstrably better than ‘Powder Burns’ or ‘Blackberry Belle’, but that does not mean it is less than a supreme rock and roll triumph. It’s got everything we want in a Greg Dulli effort: sleek production that is nonetheless guitar-centric (with indulgent use of the wah-wah pedal, god bless them), menacingly suave yet somehow cantankerous vocals, and lyrics that are unapologetically seamy. In fact, this might be Dulli’s strongest vocal performance of his career. Despite that he struggles with pitch on the opener ‘Last Night in Town’, the rest of the album is pretty well flawless. Combine this with what Dulli himself said is the most band-centric recording approach he has taken in the Twilight Singers part of his career, and you have something that ought to be on anyone’s year end best-of list.
It’s hard to pick out highlights on a record that works so well as a whole. I’m partial to the loud stuff, and ‘Waves’ hits that spot for me while still having all the drama you expect from this band. Check out the video for ‘On the Corner’ to get a good feel for the overall vibe of the album – then go get the album and go see them live (they’re out there right now).