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More greatness featuring Mark Lanegan...
on 6 April 2007
Soulsavers are a duo known for remixing acts like Doves who emanated from Stoke on Trent; 'it's not how far you fall, it's the way you land' is their second album and is notable as it features the great Mark Lanegan on eight of its eleven tracks. Lanegan is often cited as a tortured individual who has suffered addictions, it should be pointed out that he appeared to get over them around the time of 'Scraps at Midnight/I'll Take Care of You' and has been a workaholic since, producing his own solo work plus collaborations with The Walkabouts, Martina Topley-Bird, Isobel Campbell, Desert Sessions, Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, Twilight Singers, Masters of Reality etc - he also has another project with Twilight Singer' Greg Dulli, under the Gutter Twins moniker. So, what is effectively an unexpected solo album from Lanegan is very, very welcome.
This is not Lanegan being backed in the rock style of QOTSA or Screaming Trees, the closest work is the more electronic tracks on 'Bubblegum' or the Martina Topley-Bird collaboration (Lanegan likes the more explorative side of hip hop, like Clouddead, as well as having covered Massive Attack on the last Twilight Singers ep). Opener 'Revival' is gorgeous stuff, tapping into a 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' vibe with some sublime organ and some soulful gospel vocals from Wendy Rose and Lena Palmer. I played this in the store and bought this album on the strength of it - it sounds to me like one of the greatest things Lanegan has co-written/sang. 'Ghosts of You and Me' displays the electronica side of Soulsavers, sounding like a sharper version of Depeche Mode's 'Ultra' musically, maybe with a hint of the electronic climes Australian act black cab are exploring at present. Rich Warren contributes some suitably manic guitar as Lanegan does his Waits-like narration, and some odd jazzy noises come in before the beats descend - very much in the climes of 'Altamont Diary.'
'Paper Money' has the feel of certain DJ Shadow and maybe the better side of David Holmes - Rose and Palmer's vocals coming back in to compliment Lanegan's lead vocals, bursting with joy and the kind of thing Primal Scream will kick themselves for not having thought of over their last few records! Lanegan takes a back-seat for 'Ask the Dust', an instrumental piece that takes its name from John Fante's great novel of the same name - the sleeve also quotes Charles Bukowski, so there is a certain vibe the Soulsavers are tapping into here.
'Spiritual' is a mellow, almost ambient piece that sounds like a coming-down type of song, very close in territory to certain Spiritualized records and with a Jesus-refrain that could be traced back to Screaming Tree's gospel themed 'Dust' (1996). 'Kingdom of Rain' is a reworking of a track from Lanegan's second solo album 'Whiskey for the Holy Ghost' , wasn't this written with former Dinosaur Jr member Mike Johnson? It's much better than the version from that album, having some great guitar from Warren, lap steel from Oscar Martinez, and a guest vocal from Doves' Jimi Goodwin. Always great to revisit old material, as Lanegan did on his recent tour with Isobel Campbell, which saw him perform tracks from his 1999 covers album 'I'll Take Care of You.'
'Through My Sails' is another cover version, the final track from Neil Young's 1975 classic 'Zuma' that was intended for an uncompleted Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Not sure if it's better than the original, as I love 'Zuma' so much (even the slightly lame 'Stupid Girl') - Lanegan is once again joined by Rose and Palmer, and another slightly surprising addition in the form of Bonnie Prince Billy himself, Will Oldham (another workaholic if you take in the recent records, tour, and the film appearance). Alt country/Oldham-heads will have to hear this! 'Arizona Bay' is another instrumental, a soundtrack suited piece with piano not far from 'Moonlight Sonata.'
This gives way to 'Jesus of Nothing', which is very trip hop and features percussion and bass from Sanj Sen, making me think this is an ideal companion to the recent guest filled release from future pilot aka. 'Jesus...' is very close to Tricky (who is mentioned in the credits), having an 'Ipcress File'-sounding element and waves of synths - a more subtle take on parts of Prml Scrm's 'Xtrmntr', blending electronics and psychedelia wonderfully. The album closes on an epic medley, a cover of The Stones' 'No Expectations' (from 'Beggar's Banquet') and Soulsavers' own 'End Title Theme.' Stunning stuff and a conclusion to the best album of this type since Barry Adamson's 1996 classic 'Oedipus Schmoedipus' - an album surprisingly addictive, and one that no Lanegan fan will want to be without. A nice surprise!