After ending their careers with the bands that made them at least partially household names, Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) certainly haven't been taking it easy. Dulli quickly formed another band (Twilight Singers) and has collaborated with a slew of different artists, including Lucinda Williams. Lanegan meanwhile, has released six solo albums, a couple releases with Isobel Cambell of Belle And Sebastian, and worked with PJ Harvey, Queens Of The Stone Age, and hair-rockers like Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan. Borne out of a rumour started by Lanegan in an interview back in 2003, The Gutter Twins finds the veterans joined by a solid backing cast for this solid debut.
Given the pedigree of the two individuals involved, The Gutter Twins largely sounds kind of like what one might expect given the pairing. The twelve songs on the release are lush and dark, with pained vocals from the duo. In addition to vocals, Dulli is one of the main instrumental players on the release, adding guitar, a variety of keys, and even drums to several tracks while honorary third member Mathias Schneeberger and other players help fill things out. Given Dulli's hand, it's no surprise that songs on the release resemble work from both of his previous bands. "The Stations" kicks things off, and the melancholy guitar, sharp drums, strings and dual vocals sound something like an updated version of a juicy Afghan Whigs track, while the drum machine backed "The Body" (which also features Martina Topley Bird on background vocals) feels like it could have easily come off either of the previous Twilight Singers releases.
"Idle Hands" opens with guttural vocals from Lanegan alongside scorching guitars and tense strings, but instead of staying downcast it gets downright anthem-like during the soaring choruses. "Seven Stories Underground" shakes with sort of a southwestern vibe as lap steel and curls of organ drift into the distance while Lanegan takes on more of a crooning tone. Lyrically, the two sing about losing their way and finding it about as well as anyone, and musically the release is sinister and sometimes seductive (and sometimes both at once). It's not the sort of release that throws a lot of curveballs, but Saturnalia is nonetheless a solid album from two veteran musicians. Obviously, fans of either Dulli or Lanegan will not go wrong here.