Greg Dulli of The Twilight Singers and formerly the Afghan Whigs is highly public, bordering on boastful, about his alcohol-soaked, drug heavy past. If his history is intended to tell us something about his music, or vice versa, his music about his tumultuous past, The Twilight Singers’ EP A Stitch In Time has succeeded. A Stitch In Time is an aging rocker’s bar stool ramble; bittersweet story tinged with wisdom, wistfulness and folly.
Dulli has collaborated with former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan on A Stitch In Time as a prelude to the duo’s upcoming full-length, to be released under the name The Gutter Twins. Lanegan takes on lead vocal duties with a husky voice at once soothing and imperfect, something like the wizened bartender of a well-loved dive. His opening lines on the EP’s cover of Massive Attack’s “Live With Me” recall Johnny Cash: brash, sexy and been-to-hell-and-back. The Twilight Singers’ “Live With Me”—as well as the EP as a whole—is powerful, anthemic classic rock that reaches its peak on the Dulli-written “They Ride” with its hearty, swelling riffs. The Twilight Singers may be indie rock stalwarts, but A Stitch In Time feels like pure Americana. This is testosterone-driven music that jeans-wearing, beer-swilling good old boys in any red state could enjoy.
The Twilight Singers veer out of such territory, however, on the Marvin-Gaye inspired “Sublime”. Yes, Marvin Gaye inspired. Apparently Dulli and fellow luminary Joseph Arthur, whose vocals are featured on this track, wrote this song following a (stoned?) conversation about their shared love for Mr. Gaye. I imagine the idea sounded better at the time since “Sublime” is best suited as background music for a Holiday Inn lobby. The Dulli-written “The Lure Would Prove Too Much”, a cast-off from The Twilight Singer’s last release Powder Burns is soft and countrified, refusing to shed its identity as an afterthought.
Yet even in its highlights—”They Ride” and the lush, spacey “Flashback”—The Twilight Singers are re-treading old territory. Like a drunk who habitually tells the same old stories of his glory days, A Stitch In Time becomes a bit boring. Dulli and Lanegan, prolific as they may be, are writing rock music for grown-ups, and it consequently lacks any sense of daring or edginess. Dedicated fans of The Screaming Trees, The Twilight Singers, and Afghan Whigs intent on owning the entire Dulli/Lanegan discography will benefit from the purchase of A Stitch In Time; anyone else isn’t missing out on anything too exciting.
– Mary Mulholland