Sound — 10
If you even have a passing knowledge of who/what the Gutter Twins are, then I have no doubt you are rather anticipating their first release, the full length Saturnalia. For the uneducated, the Gutter Twins are Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, survivors of the '90s, frontmen of The Screaming Trees and the Afghan Whigs respectively. Since then, both men have moved on through various projects, working with each other previously on The Twilight Singers, Dulli's main band. So for those still unfamiliar with these two geniuses, how best to describe their record? Besides several shades of their own work, Saturnalia manages to sound somewhat like blues shoved through a Radiohead filter. It's unrelentingly dark; melodic pop let loose in a dirty bar and as album opener "The Stations" shows, it's powerful stuff. Dulli is a man who knows what needs to be added to a musical brew in order for it to sound right, the odd violin backing here, pounding drum opening there. Saturnalia is also rather expansive, "Each to Each" is rather different to "God's Children", Lanegan and Dulli being the only constants. The only track that seems truly out of place is "Idle Hands", though I use that term in the nicest way possible. It flits between demonic and epic and remains the most memorable slice of the album.
Lyrics — 9
The word 'suicide' is mentioned a couple of times early on. Now I tell you that not in a judgemental way, just so you can get an idea that this is not a party album (Well, depends on the party really). The lyrics exist purely as a means for Lanegan and Dulli to sing in beautiful harmony, as it sounds fantastic. If it didn't, the whole album would be a failure regardless of how good the actual words were. Last track "Front Street" contains the repeated line "We're going to have some fun, son", sang by these two it hardly implies a leisurely day spent fishing. Of course, I have to focus on my favourite vocalist of all time, Mark Lanegan's voice sounding youthful somehow despite remaining a bastard mix between Waits and Nick Cave.
Overall Impression — 9
I think I may have wrote this review to early. Saturnalia deserves many more listens before I can fully appreciate it and put that appreciation into words. The album is exactly what I was expecting, yet it still surprised me. For Lanegan fans, it's the missing link that some felt was missing on his collaborations with Isobel Campbell and the Soulsavers (I loved both however). For Dulli followers, it'll be welcomingly familiar. The quality is without doubt, the high points are epic and the low points seemingly need just a few more listens. Thanks to songs like the previously mentioned "Front Street" and "Idle Hands" it remains a worthy addition to both artists catalogues. Once it's over you're left seeking more, which I hope will come at some point in the future. So, is it an early contender for best album of the year? Well as related projects go, Saturnalia could face stiff competition the Desert Sessions and the next Masters of Reality record. Though I have no doubt the Gutter Twins debut will make a few end of the year top 10.