on 1 August 2006
Who would have expected it in 2006 Belle & Sebastian and ex-member of Belle & Sebastian Isobel Campbell both release albums and the one that grabs most attention is Campbell's. This girl used to be written off as twee but there's nothing twee about this record. From the cover photos and through the songs Isobel twists and plays with the normal preconceptions of male-female roles in music and relationships. Her unexpected partner for this project Lanegan sounds like a younger and sexier Tom Waits and allows Isobel to call the shots and pull the strings.
Okay you can say it's all just an imitation of Nancy & Lee and be cynical if you want but it goes somewhere else. It succeeds where Nick Cave and Kylie's bad Nancy & Lee pastiche failed because the songs are good enough and there's something new here. It's a darker and dirtier take on what Hazelwood did with Sinatra.
Isobel's take on Hank Williams's Ramblin' Man is up there with the best and most unexpected versions of the king of country's songs. If you want a cute little summer day record this is not for you but if you want a record that is darkly sexy, inventive and unexpected you should grab hold of it.
on 1 March 2006
I'm not as keen on reviewing music - it really is a personal thing. "Finest album ever" - "Complete waste of time". I am rarely a mainstream listener, I do like looking for fresh sounds, preferably something that touches me and that will grow on me.
This is an interesting album (and not in the sense of being quite inaccessible to most people!) but it wouldn't be too easy to put in a pidgeon hole (which suits me). I don't really agree with the Cohen tag tho I understand why - I hear some early Dylan on some of the tracks and there certainly is a touch of alt country. Their voices really do go well together and the music is very well balanced. Certainly this is "sexy" music to me.
Almost a challenge - listen to the final track without pressing repeat! Enjoy it, it's worth discovering
on 9 February 2006
A real gem.
Lanegan's croaky baritone and Campbell's sweetness combine on a range of material that echo Leonard Cohen and acoustic Nick Cave, even the alt.coutry of Willard Grant and Giant Sand.
The opener is a great example, simple marching rhythym, grumbling Lanegan and the deft touches of Campbell providing a tune that worms into your head all day. Elswhere the Hank Williams cover of Ramblin Man has a loose country feel, 'Saturdays Gone' is a sweet ballad for Campbell and the closer 'Circus Is Leaving Town' a bittersweet and sexy finish.
Insrumentation is mostly sparse, but strings add lushness and mood.
A real peach of an album, only the instrumental tracks feels a little like filler.
If you like this check out Willard Grant Conspiracy 'Regard The End'
on 28 April 2006
A huge Belle & Sebastian fan, my girlfriend bought this album by ex-B&S member Isobel Campbell and when we both heard it for the first time we weren't that keen.
However, after hearing it once or twice I am absolutely in love with it and had to go and buy my own copy.
At first listening there seemed to be just a little too much contrast between her delicate voice and his gruff voice but it works really, really well.
Something about Mark laneglan's voice reminds me of Tom Waites' soundtract for the film 'Down by Law'.
When this first came out it seemed a bit odd - Young Scottish folk star Campbell paired with Seattle Indie veteran Mark Lanegan? Not a natural pairing. But the music they have produced is superb. From the pen of Campbell, we are presented with deep and moving tales of people and lives broken by love. Campbell's voice floats and dances ethereally around Lanegan's gruff, worldly rumblings, with a spare backing that gives this a timeless, otherworldly atmosphere.
Atmosphere is the word. It is so thick you could cut it with a knife at times. Dense and smokey, with an aftertaste of whiskey and a feeling of regret.
This is a great record of slow burning blues/soul with a jazzy/folky tinge. Thoughtful music, made with conviction by two people who clearly enjoy working with each other and creatively sparking off each other. An album for those long nights alone with painful memories and a bottle of something that burns the throatand dulls the pain of the broken heart.
A classic album, if you like this then check out the follow ups `Sunday At Devil Dirt' and `Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart'. Here's hoping that there's more to come?
on 12 March 2007
Mark Lanegan has already proved his worth collaborating with QOTSA on one of the standout tracks on their 'Lullabies' album and on the rather excellent solo album 'Bubblegum', so joining forces with Belle And Sebastien's Isobel Campbell might have come as a bit of a surprise. The results however are really, REALLY good...sometimes breathtaking! As soon as first track Dues Ibi Est begins you know you're in for something special. Mark Lanegan's growl is used to perfect effect in a Cohen-esque rumbling. Although a handful of the tracks utilise the difference in vocal tones between the two singers to great effect, none-so-better than The False Husband. This is a very special album indeed.
'Ballad of the Broken Seas' is already contender for my favourite album of 2006 in a year that seems to be shaping up to be classic with fine albums from Sparks, Artic Monkeys, The Fall (surely a new LP is imminent?), Neko Case, Pink Mountaintops, Jenny Lewis, Belle & Sebastian, Beth Orton, Ray Davies, the much-tipped Mew & the return of the timeless Scott Walker. A collaboration between former Belle & Sebastian/Gentle Waves chanteuse Isobel Campbell and former Screaming Tree/Queen of the Stone Age Mark Lanegan might not appear very normal - should we expect a collaboration between Stuart Murdoch & Nick Oliveri in the near future? On closer inspection it makes sense - Campbell has developed on the folky roots found in B&S songs from the late 90s/early zeroes, through the Gentle Waves, and to her own solo career (Lanegan guested on previous LP 'Amorino'), and appears to have truly formed her solo career with this collaboration and the future folk album release 'Over the Wheat & the Barley' (which appears to be wonderfully timed considering the enthuasism for folk old & new at present). Meanwhile listeners of Mr Lanegan will note his CV is extremely eclectic - from the diverse instrumentation of Screaming Trees' 'Dust', to the many collaborations (Desert Sessions, the Walkabouts, Martina Topley Bird, Mad Season, Masters of Reality, QOTSA), and his own rich solo career which only came into vogue with 'Field Songs'. Earlier tracks like 'Wild Flowers', 'Carnival', 'Hotel', the cover of 'Carry Home', the cover of 'Creeping Coastline of Lights' & 'Field Song' all point here. More recent Lanegan fans should find some of this material close to duets found on 'Bubblegum': 'Bombed' & 'Come to Me.' Those less familiar with Lanegan or Campbell can be illuminated with comparisons to Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood ('Some Velvet Morning' is key), Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin, Anita Lane/Mick Harvey, The Bad Seeds' 'Murder Ballads', & Jack White's contribution to the soundtrack to 'Cold Mountain.' Campbell has cited the Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin albums 'The Man Comes Around' & 'Solitary Man' as the model for this album.
The album opens with 'Deus Ibi Est' which finds Lanegan taking lead vocals, a vocal not far from Tom Waits contrasting against Campbell's ethereal vocal. 'Ballad of the Broken Seas' is a varied selection, a listen to this suggests that Campbell & co really ought to be pursued by Hollywood for a soundtrack (if they ever filmed 'Blood Meridian'). T-Bone Burnett better watch out...'Black Mountain' sees Campbell take lead vocals on a track that feels like a darker relative of Laura Veirs on 'Carbon Glacier' - the string arrangements here are fantastic. 'The False Husband' is a suitably gothic duet, contrasting string arrangements back up the male/female vocals in something that sounds like a classical take on 'Some Velvet Morning.'
The title track is luscious - it ought to be pointed out that Campbell is the primary songwriter here, her talent for songwriting has developed hugely since the days of songs like 'The Gate.' The title track makes me think a little of Nick Cave's 'Black Hair' and a lot of Lanegan's brief covers album 'I'll Take Care of You' - though Lanegan breaks new ground too with an emphasis on strings that have only tended to feature 'Kashmir'-style on songs like 'No Easy Action' & 'Gospel Plow.' 'Revolver' is the sole composition by Lanegan, sounding like a collision of 'Bombed' & the soundtrack to 'Cold Mountain' imbued with the sublime acoustics of Daniel Lanois-production work for Emmylou Harris. The single 'Ramblin' Man' is a fine cover of Hank Williams - Lanegan showing that he's one of the great cover artists too (previous great covers included Tim Buckley's 'Cafe', the Gun Club's 'Carry Home' & his interpretation of Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night'- which Nirvana facsimled a few years later). The sound is not far from Tom Waits' circa 'Bone Machine', with a lovely counterpoint vocal from Campbell which is a little Jane Birkin.
'(Do You Wanna)Come Walk with Me' takes us back to a pure acoustic sound, again recalling Jack White's work on 'Cold Mountain' - though Campbell & Lanegan advance this approach into a duet. Campbell has clearly considered the vocals here as an instrument - though I'm intrigued what she'll play live when I see her in a few weeks time! 'Saturday's Gone' is another gorgeous ballad with vibraphone which can be related to Lanegan's covers album (while Claire Campbell's violin solo made me think of 'Carnival'). Former Soup Dragon Jim McCulloch plays great guitar throughout and offers his own compositon 'It's Hard to Kill a Bad Thing' which is a wonderful interlude with great percussion. This album feels like a carefully designed sequence - so few albums are these days!
'Honey Child What Can I Do?' is the closest this record gets to the catchy pop of Belle & Sebastian, though I thought a little of The Jesus & Mary Chain/Hope Sandoval's duet 'Sometimes Always' and quite a lot of Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb. 'Dusty Wreath' showcases Campbell's more classical side, beguiling harpsichord & piano & those angelic vocals...The album concludes on 'The Circus is Leaving Town', which features some aching hammond organ against Lanegan's adieu ("unslip your velvet gown and let your hair hang loose...").
'Ballad of the Broken Seas' is hugely impressive, a great collaboration even if it's only a one-off - a definite contender for album of 2006 and proof that anything Lanegan appears on is great. Campbell on the evidence here has become one of the most interesting artists around and has left the fey indie-pop of yore she's been associated with in the dust...
on 8 February 2006
...in which a respectably married schoolteacher (Campbell) meets a drifter (Lanegan) and embarks on a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair, exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity that exists below the surface of small town America.
Ok - that's not true, but it could well be. The music is very remisicent of Angelo Badalmenti's soundtracks for "Twin Peaks" and "Wild at Heart", while Campbell's haunting, breathy vocal style recalls Julee Cruise. And there is definitely a theme, if not a storyline, running through the album.
Other reviewers have done an excellent track by track analysis, but it's worth highlighting the standouts - the explicit sexuality of "Do you wanna come walk with me?"; the regret in Lanegan's voice in "The Circus is leaving town" and the fantastic cover of Hank William's "Ramblin'Man"
Isobel Campbell is without doubt becoming one of our more interesting singer/songwriters, while Mark Lanegan proves yet again that he adds class and depth to most projects he's involved with
My only reason for not giving 5 stars is purely pedantic. Neither singer seems to have realised that opening track "Deus Ibi Est" rhymes with "Best" and isn't pronounced in the French way "Eh". The mispronunciation spoils (for me)what is otherwise another great track.
But overall, this is an album that any discerning listener will welcome into their collection - and perhaps worth a flutter on for the Mercury Music Prize?
on 9 February 2006
I wasn't sure what to expect from this album, but any misgivings about this somewhat unlikely pairing were quickly swept away upon first listening to it. Its a great listen, full of superbly realised songs that will stick in your head long after listening to them, and Campbell and Lanegan combine beautifully. If you're a newcomer to Lanegan and like what you hear on this album, you should check out the Screaming Trees and his solo work, its all good.