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When Soulsavers recorded 2007's It's Not How Far You Fall, It's How You Land they were out of contract, scraping by on credit cards and had just begun working with Mark Lanegan; not known for his frivolity. Unsurprisingly, it emerged as dark and depressed. Two years, a major label record deal and mountains of ecstatic reviews later, and the duo's prospects have brightened considerably, though their sound - as their fans will be relieved to hear - has not.
Like its predecessor, Broken fuses delta blues, grizzled gospel and comedown electronica to create an atmosphere that is both grand and bleak. In fact, on initial listens the mood is so downbeat that songs blur oppressively into each other, not helped by a hoary blues vocabulary where blood is always ''cursed'', wounds ''never heal'' and bones are always ''weary.''
Understandably, many will lack the appetite for second helpings. But for those who persevere, there are enough gleams of light poking through the cloud cover, and enough slowly revealed surprises to make the effort worthwhile. So while Death Bells is too dourly self-regarding to truly love, and the long, creaky Gene Clark cover Some Misunderstanding sounds distressingly like Chris Rea, other songs see Soulsavers live up to their considerable reputation.
One is Unbalanced Pieces, where the solemnity of Lanegan's central melody is lifted by a skulking, hypnotic bass and one of the album's few big, hummable choruses. You'll Miss Me When I Burn is far starker, based around little more than a mournful, circling piano, but is all the more moving for its simplicity.
Unusually, the album saves its best surprises for the end, when Red Ghost makes a late, strangely uplifting appearance. On the sweet, sad-eyed lullaby of Praying Ground, the Australian sings with an authority and assurance remarkable in a newcomer. Even more boldly, she more than holds her own on her duet with Lanegan, Rolling Sky, which is as menacing and unpredictable as an approaching storm.
Broken is probably too stubborn and idiosyncratic to win over many who haven't already acquired a taste for either Soulsavers or Lanegan. But those who have are likely to love it deeply and fiercely. --Jaime Gill
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Top Customer Reviews
and their estimable collaborators.
Dark, funereal and strangely uplifting on occasion, 'Broken' is
music for a night in with a good bottle of red wine for company
( a Romanee-Conti or Richebourg would do nicely ).
Ideally the wind will be lashing the rain
mercilessly against your windowpanes.
Opening track 'The Seventh Proof' is a beautifully
constructed instrumental overture.
The tolling bell is an inspired little detail.
The reflective prelude is swept away by the violently raucous
mayhem of 'Death Bells', a composition redolent of Nick Cave
in one of his big, bad evangelical preacher moments.
You can almost smell the fire and brimstone !
Mr Lanegan, though clearly leader of the pack, is not alone
in providing some marvellous moments within the 13 tracks
comprising this largely gloomy (in a good way) collection.
Red Ghost's duet with him on 'Rolling Sky' is a richly layered tour de force.
Richard Hawley's contribution to 'Shadows Fall' also deserves a special mention.
There is an almost cinematic quality to many of the songs.
Songs for sinners and saviours and imaginary westerns.
The fiercely emotional intensity of 'You Will Miss Me When I Burn' is almost
unbearable. "When you have no-one no-one can hurt you" - Ouch indeed !
'Praying Ground' has garnered some criticism for Ms Ghost's performance. I loved it.
So too her rendition of final track 'By My Side',
a very moving conclusion to a very fine album.
Almost certainly a strong contender for inclusion in my top ten albums of 2009.
Compared to his for the most part subpar collaborations with Isobel Campbell, and his comfort zone in the Gutter Twins (not that Saturnalia wasn't a great album), Lanegan really stretches himself on this one. You'll have your heart broken again and again, in the sweetest sense possible. Tales of regret and inner turmoil have always been the Lanegan standard, but here the vocal meoldies soar just that bit more due to the production work - Mark's voice sounds richer because of the sheer amount of musical embellishment behind his voice. Be it wall-of-sound guitars, amazing back-up harmonies, maturely put-together string sections or a wealth of backup singers (including Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers!!) who are in their own right well-known enough to carry a song by themselves but who are humble enough to just add to them.
However, the extra star missing from this review is due to a genuinely uninspired Lanegan cover from newcomer Red Ghost. Like many people I had talked to prior to the release of this album I got myself into a bit of a state in anticipation of this new Lanegan interpretation, 'Praying Grounds'. Being that the cover of 'Kingdoms of Rain' from their last album, It's Not How far You Fall, It's The Way You Land, was completely astounding and added to the songs without taking anything away from it (not an easy thing to do to a classic such as KoR), I was looking forawrd to this a lot.Read more ›
The core duo of Soulsavers are Rich Machin and Ian Glover and, together with Lanegan and guest vocalist Red Ghost, who appears on three tracks, they have produced a superb album. They are labelled as 'electonica' but you wouldn't think that from listening to Broken. It is a very eclectic album encompassing lush instrumentals, rock, ballads, country, gospel and jazz drenched in wonderful arrangements and melodies. They could fuel a whole episode of Jools Holland and, with your eyes shut, you'd think they were different bands. My only negative would be that the album is overlong, mainly due to the three tracks of around 7 minutes which certainly outstay their welcome.
Lanegan, after collaborating on the last two SS albums does not appear on their next release, out this month, The Light The Dead Sea, which sees Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode as the guest vocalist/collaborator. I await it's release with anticipation although it'll have to go some to surpass Broken!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Utter understated class. Great lyrics, great singing, great guitarPublished 11 months ago by Chris Cammiss
5 stars if only for the brilliant 'You Will Miss Me When I Burn' and the vocals of Red GhostPublished 13 months ago by Olly S
I discovered Soulsavers via their collaboration with Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode. So I took a punt on this. It is fantastic. Read morePublished on 8 Jun. 2014 by novelevon
In my opinion, even when I got over constantly playing Gene Claks Some Misunderstanding, this is there best album and there is quality right through from start to finish.Published on 13 Jan. 2013 by Mr. B. ASHTON
Mark Lanegan conjures up more dark, hypnotic & mournful music with his low and husky voice. This time its a blend of indie, blues, gospel and electronic. Read morePublished on 4 Aug. 2010 by Alister King
The album kicks off with a beautiful piano-led piece, The Seventh Proof, before crashing into the most uptempo track, Death Bells. Read morePublished on 24 April 2010 by klaher
what an album i highly recommend this if you like your music meloncholic and soft.Published on 14 Jan. 2010 by Mr. S. Cowley
great album. another fantastic collaboration from mark lanegan. bought this just before seeing soul savers live in glasgow with mr lanegan - neither album nor gig disappointed.Published on 26 Sept. 2009 by William Murphy