One way—not necessarily the right or most memorable way, but one way—to tackle other people's songs is to read them perfectly straight: Jazz vocalists and cover bands can make honest livings by lifting arrangements and acts wholesale. But giving the people what they want has never been Greg Dulli's style. The former Afghan Whigs frontman, in his current guise as The Twilight Singers, takes his tribute to other songwriters to the opposite extreme, pulling their compositions so tightly into his come-hither swagger-rock world that they might as well be his own.
The song selection on She Loves You doesn't exactly scream out "covers album," which probably has something to do with Dulli's esoteric tastes and something to do with his ego. It's tough to value, or even notice, the novelty in covering obscurities like "Feeling Of Gaze," a track originally recorded by former Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval on a little-heard solo album, or the David Holmes/Martina Topley-Bird collaboration "Too Tough To Die." But those songs, along with a slow-burning take on Björk's "Hyperballad" and a Mark Lanegan-assisted rendering of Skip James' "Hard Time Killing Floor," shine the brightest.
Elsewhere, chancy takes meet occasional success. "Strange Fruit" (made famous by Billie Holiday) and John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" feel hastier than Dulli probably intended, though a sultry version of Marvin Gaye's "Please Stay (Once You Go Away)" compensates with the chugging intensity of The Afghan Whigs' best moments. For better and worse, Dulli molds these bizarrely disparate song choices into shapes that suit his style, overpowering them on occasion, but only so as not to come across as slavishly deferential or dull. He clearly respects the songs enough that he wants to contribute to their evolution, not just watch them from the sidelines.