Get Your Mind in the Gutter

Twin testimonials for new Northwest releases.

Greg Dulli isn't for everybody. I recently witnessed a rather hilarious battle of slurred words at an afterparty in which two suitably soused fellows argued about Dulli's standing as arrogant asshole or genuflect-worthy genius. The divisiveness of his persona is understandable: The combination of boastful, blue-eyed soul and smarmy sexuality, capped with a flamboyant, over-the-top stage presence, is bound to rub some people the wrong way, particularly those who prefer their troubadours mysterious, brooding, or otherwise detached. While the urge to dismiss Dulli's grandstanding as that of an overrated egomaniac isn't unreasonable, it's also simplistic. His strength lies in that lecherous croon and the unexpected optimism and humanity that underpins it. Whether it's within the hedonistic highs he hit with the Afghan Whigs or the grim aftermath that colored subsequent project the Twilight Singers, Dulli somehow always manages to seem both utterly full of shit and earnestly brimming with insight. Mark Lanegan, on the other hand, has always kept his cards closer to his chest, suggesting (but never overtly brandishing) a psychological cellar full of secrets tended with the sort of dry-aged wisdom that only comes after a long, hard road out of hell. Raspy and rich, Lanegan's voice hinges on the tantalizing thrill of what he doesn't reveal, but sustains itself on the promise of the power he delivers when he finally opens up. It is that shared duality that makes the Gutter Twins, his long-simmering partnership with Dulli, such a dark, triumphant thing of beauty. According to Dulli, Saturnalia (Sub Pop) takes its name from an ancient Roman festival that climaxed by having slaves trade places with their masters. Historical metaphors and double-edged swords notwithstanding, the simple fact is that Saturnalia is imbued with all the grit and glamour that fans of both artists would expect, and the live show should be a sight to behold. The aptly named duo play the Showbox at the Market next Tuesday, March 4—the same day that their Sub Pop debut hits store shelves. The Dionysian thrill spurring local band the Hands isn't nearly as dramatic as that of the GTs, but that has more to do with unedited, youthful exuberance than a lack of pleasure-seeking on their behalf. Their excellent So Sweet EP caught the ears of garage and hard-rock fans in 2005, and they're celebrating the release of their self-titled full-length on Selector Sound Records this Friday, Feb. 29, at Neumo's. When I chatted with bassist Michael Tyler and guitarist Eli Chuckovich last Friday over bottles of Rainier beer and a steady stream of smokes on the patio outside the Victory Lounge on Eastlake, the pair told the story of the Hands' inception and recording history with plenty of laughter, self-effacing jabs, and a pretty pure sense of wonder and appreciation for their success so far. Arriving in Seattle from the geographically disparate but spiritually kindred locales of Olympia and Washington, D.C., the members hooked up after sharing both practice spaces and a fondness for Black Mountain—an influence less obvious than the vivid shades of classic Rolling Stones and Nuggets-era garage rock that characterize the delightfully sleazy and raw record. "Aww, man," says Chuckovich when I bring up the pervasive Stones comparisons. "I guess there are worse fates. I don't think we sound like them tremendously." Despite that assertion, they admit to a fondness for taking the basic building blocks and making them their own. This stands out most impressively on the three-part, 10-minute coda that closes the album in a bright, triumphant blur of timeless blues guitar, plaintive piano, and joyous harmonies, all led by the gutsy, impassioned howl of frontman/baritone guitarist John Healy. "We used to call it 'Stairway to Hotel Freebird,' but we decided against using that," laughs Tyler. When I suggest that there's no shame in not aiming to reinvent the wheel, he takes a thoughtful pull off his beer and adds quietly. "If you do it from a certain place, it's going to be unique." rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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