One day, all online record sales will be conducted using Sub Pop’s excellent business model. Encouraging vinyl sales by including free mp3 download codes and generally being really friendly and easy to deal with is reason enough to fling disposable income at them, but they should also be singled out for special praise for providing streams of your order when they send you your purchase confirmation. This also extends to pre-orders, so that rather than wait until the middle of February (when I’ll be in London seeing Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell) for this, it’s available to listen to right now.
And, if I had paid attention to my emails properly, I could have listened to this yesterday as well. Ah well, better late than never, and certainly better than hanging about for another couple of weeks (plus time added on for awful postal service at the mo)…
Throughout Greg Dulli’s career, it’s clear to see that he is his own greatest influence – with every record certainly since their Up In It Sub Pop debut, the songs seem to set the basic blueprint for what follows. But, where with other bands this would simply mean retreading, with Dulli it’s a springboard to go wherever he wants with his music, while keeping it tied to his own unique roots.
And this is just how Dynamite Steps begins – Last Night In Town‘s opening starts off in similar fashion to something off Blackberry Belle, before accelerating through reminiscences of Powder Burns, before bursting into action as something completely new and exciting. It’s testament to Greg’s desire to continue to find new places to go with his personality-fuelled songs, finding invention and heart at every turn, putting much younger and lazier bands to shame in his wake.
Soundwise, there’s a whole lot more going on than in previous albums, but this is tempered with a rawness in voice and instrumentation (especially with an amazingly punchy drum sound) to give an overall impression of a lot of people all on one stage at the same time all having the best possible time. This is on record the closest I’ve heard to the fun and the fury of a live Twilight Singers show, which further whets the appetite for their upcoming tour.
Musically, it’s a treasure trove. There’s plenty to love for existing fans, and so much to instantly grab new listeners.
For me, the album’s undoubted initial highlight is Waves – a furious and joyous track that is full-tilt in its execution and roof-raising in the way that the lyrics are delivered, Greg giving it his all in a way that I can’t remember him doing on record before and it’s a genuine delight to hear. Elsewhere, his Blackbird and the Fox is beautiful and selfless, allowing Ani DiFranco just as much room to move within the song as he gives himself, their voices circling each other constantly throughout. Gunshots comes across as something that wouldn’t feel out of place of the Afghan Whigs’ classic Black Love opus but with enough new bells and whistles to fully deserve its place in this new collection. And the confessional Get Lucky sends a chill down the spine with its measured and sorrowful timbre.
There is a similarity in mood and chronology to John Grant’s Queen of Denmark at work in the album’s undertow, and this is something that has been present right through the Twilight Singers’ ever-impressive catalogue. But where John is still fighting his demons, Greg sounds with Dynamite Steps (generally in terms of the album as a whole, but more specifically with the album’s soaring and closing title track) like he’s beaten his, and comes across as being very happy about this, while still carrying the scars.
Utterly astonishing and surprising with each and every new song, this is one album that will grow and grow with each listen, as new layers are found and peeled back. Not a record to be missed by anyone.