Sunday, August 15, 2021

Powder Burns

 I will always hear the chorus to this song as 

"I'm ready - I'm ready - to hurt somebody." 

These words fit with the image of Greg Duli at the time, and it fits with where I was mentally. Not that I was angry and ready to hurt somebody, but I was ready to blow up my old life and start a new one. And that's exactly what I did.

I used to listen to The Twilight Singers' Powder Burns every day, compulsively. I probably had a low-grade addiction to cocaine by the time I left Chicago in 2006. It wasn't an everyday thing, but it was around me every day I worked at the bar where I tended, so things were moving in that direction. When I moved to the West Coast, I effectively shut that down. (Who moves to LaLaLand to stop doing blow?). A lot of the artists who affected me the most after this all had public personas that included similar pastime pursuits. Duli was one, plus, there was this additional melancholy attached to falling in love with his music, as my friend Brian had always heralded Duli's first band, The Afghan Whigs, as a major influence, and I just hadn't been there at the time to share that with him. I never bothered to take Brian's suggestion seriously because I had not yet encountered anything in my life that prepared me to fall in love with Greg Duli's music yet. Shortly after Brian died, I moved. By the time I did, I was hooked on the Whigs' Gentleman, and soon after 1965, and then, in 2006,  Powder Burns. 

This album is epic. I honestly believe that about every facet of it, from the songwriting, arranging and playing, to what Duli was going through in his life at the time, to the fact that the band recorded the album in a studio in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. If you read interviews with him from the time, you'll hear him discuss how the feeling of being in the wreckage of a major culture center crept into the feel of the record. It's there, oh yeah. Everything feels like it's lying in a pool of rubble, the ceiling's split open and falling, the wind is howling just outside, and you're trapped with your demons by the light of a single, solitary candle.

When I fell back into Powder Burns recently, I realized it's been a long time since I really listened to it. I still dabble with old pastimes when I return to the city I fled, although it's been a few years. I don't know if this re-engagement with the album is my inner demon fixing to make a phone call for the five days I'll be in town at the end of September, or if I'm just reclaiming the entire dejected persona for something I'm writing. That's the thing with this craft, you never really know who you are when you're working on something that puts you in the driver's seat by utilizing your life experiences. I guess only time will tell...

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