For the last 30 years, Greg Dulli, frontman of The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, has been the poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire. A foremost authority on the sell-your-soul rewards of carnal lust, the high voltage epiphanies of chemical enhancement, and the serotonin lows left in their wake.Therein lies Random Desire, the first solo album under Dulli’s own name, via Royal Cream / BMG.
The album opener. Pantomima, sets the tone from the sardonic taunts of the album’s first bars: desolation, come and get it. Random Desire started in the aftermath of the last Whigs record, 2017’s In Spades, which Pitchfork named one of the best rock records of the year, hailing it as a “heavy, menacing work of indie rock majesty…thrilling and unsettling.” Drummer Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator, bassist John Curley went back to school, and there was the tragic death of the band’s guitarist, Dave Rosser. In response, Dulli returned to his teenage bedroom roots, finding musical inspiration via the model of one-man-band visionaries Prince and Todd Rundgren.
The Los Angeles-by-way-of-Hamilton Ohio native wrote nearly every part of the record from piano lines to drums to bass riffs. As always, the music came first and the lyrics were completed later. Recording and writing way stations included his home in Silver Lake, the village of Crestline high up in the mountains above San Bernardino, and New Orleans. But the bulk was finished amidst the arid beauty and stark isolation of Joshua Tree (at the studio of engineer Christopher Thorne). Dulli handled most instrumentation, but an all-star cast of characters appear across the track-listing including The Whigs’ guitarist Jon Skibic and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, Mathias Schneeberger (Twilight Singers), pedal steel wizard, upright bassist, and physician Dr. Stephen Patt, and drummer Jon Theodore (Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta).
Clocking in at a lean 37 minutes, Random Desire is a clinic put on by a veteran master operating at the height of his powers, offering evidence of the hard-fought and weary wisdom learned from setbacks and victories alike. A lucid, confident and self-assured document of the songs of experience, the perils of existence, and the possibilities that offer themselves anew with each breath. Another death and rebirth from an outlaw who has seen it all and somehow lived to tell.