Mark Lanegan
Phantom Radio


3.8
excellent

Review

by Raul Stanciu STAFF
October 21st, 2014 | 26 replies


Release Date: 10/20/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Transmitting the tunes of all dead souls

Quite a number of mixed opinions have surfaced the moment Blues Funeral hit the shelves a couple of years ago. Seeing Mark Lanegan embracing electronic elements within his trademark, alternative rock/folky blues style, raised a few eyebrows. Even so, he wasn't a total stranger to it as his tenure with Soulsavers smoothly introduced us to a rather similar path, albeit partly hidden under a lovely, vintage sound. I must admit I wasn't too convinced either with his previous solo record, but then again, I found myself constantly revisiting it. Without realizing, it wrapped me into its cathartic beauty. All the tunes that I found boring at first, revealed themselves to be the most beautiful and elaborate ones. Now that I learned my lesson, I took my time with his latest effort, Phantom Radio, only to discover a brand new adventure.

Overall, right from the first listen, you can hear a more uplifting tone in the music, while the synthesizers play an even bigger role. The main reason the lush melodies might trick you is that Lanegan, along with producer and multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes, took their cues from popular '80s acts like The Cure or Depeche Mode, thus providing this set of depressive cuts a contrasting, poppy edge. 'Floor Of The Ocean' and 'The Killing Season' bear the most similarities the respective bands, as the laid back, hazy grooves use similar features, such as electronic percussion, high pitched analog synths and that trademark, Robert Smith-esque flanger on the guitar leads. Nevertheless, dark Mark turns them into highlights by offering a nice twist with his smoky voice. Same goes with 'Seventh Day', one of the funkiest experiments on the record. The deep kicks create a groovy foundation for playful keys and wah guitars. He also relies more on a lighter tone here, while occasionally being backed by accompanying vocals much like a church preacher. Experience taught him when to loosen up and surprise the listener (and it always pays off).

Besides these, the collaborations with Moby and Duke Garwood have left a small impact too, because there are many familiar traces left on the new material. Whereas you can hear more of the former on the accompanying No Bells On Sunday EP, here you have a few minimalist, folky cuts like 'Judgement Day', 'The Wild People' or 'I Am The Wolf'. I have always pictured Lanegan singing such numbers in an old, wild west saloon in the late 1800s (Black Pudding being an exact soundtrack to this setting) and as usual, he delivers the blues. His ghastly croon is unsettling and successfully aims for the broken hearts. Few singers today can transmit so much feeling and create such a sorrowful atmosphere with only an acoustic guitar and/or organ. Still, the closing number, 'Death Trip To Tulsa' is the one that shook me most. A very cinematic tune, the buzzing guitars and the piano lines play at a steady pace on top of which Mark shares his death bound laments. Like the ending of a western movie, you can already imagine yourself riding an old train through the prairie, while the coda keeps looping.

In the end, as much as I want to, I can't rank Phantom Radio higher than Blues Funeral. This is a very nice record, yet feels more settled overall. Nevertheless, it's a matter of choice rather than quality. I miss that dark, brooding vibe and the urgency of most of the songs on the previous LP, still I understand and appreciate Lanegan for not wanting to repeat himself. He moved forward and this can only be a good thing for an artist that has been active for 30 years now. I firmly believe he will continue making excellent music until he retires, because everything his voice touches turns to gold.




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user ratings (49)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2014


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I know I rated this review higher than the Blues Funeral one, but I bumped that 3.5 to a 4.



Stream Phantom Radio here - http://www.stereogum.com/1712116/stream-mark-lanegan-phantom-radio-stereogum-premiere/mp3s/album-stream/

Digging: Yawning Man - Macedonian Lines

AliW1993
October 21st 2014


7511 Comments


Not Dark Mark's best - I too preferred Blues Funeral - but it's a solid record nonetheless.

Nice review!

greg84
Emeritus
October 21st 2014


7606 Comments


Great review, Raul. I need to give this a spin.

Digging: Fire! Orchestra - Arrival

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 21st 2014


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks! Yeah, it's good, but doesn't surpass BF.

greg84
Emeritus
October 21st 2014


7606 Comments


Mad props for rec'ing Valis. I don't think I've given BF enough time to sink in.

Bombastik
October 21st 2014


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Solid record, still prefer his earlier stuff with Mike Johnson

Feels alot more approachable than Blues Funeral though some songs seems a little too "crowded" if you know what I mean

No mention of Torn Red Heart, one that caught my attention quickly on first listen

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2014


8337 Comments


Excellent review, Raul, I've jammed some tracks from the stream and they sound great, at least.

L4titudes
October 22nd 2014


3650 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gave this a generous 3.5. I hope it's a grower

L4titudes
October 22nd 2014


3650 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

going to see him in a few weeks though, can't wait

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2014


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

^I plan on seeing him in Budapest or Belgrade next February too. I missed his Blues Funeral tour last year. It should be awesome.



@Bombastik - I like Torn Red Heart, but somehow I focused on others. Shame on me.



@greg84 - That was my biggest mistake. I've been jamming BF like crazy this year lol. It's so good! And yeah, Valis, can't wait for them to drop something new too.

wwf
October 22nd 2014


6311 Comments


Oh this came out already? Awesome

Pho3nix
October 22nd 2014


642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Better than the last one, seems more focused.

BMDrummer
October 22nd 2014


14573 Comments


might jam

AcidCaravan
October 22nd 2014


448 Comments


A little disappointed by his last offerings. Haven't listened to this yet but the single left me pretty disappointed. I'll give it a spin, but I fear his best days, with AMAZING records like 'Whiskey For the Holy Ghost' (on top of them all), 'Scraps at Midnight' and 'Field Songs', are now way behind him. Anyway, much respect to Mark. One of the greatest voices ever. Been a fan since The Screaming Trees era, even saw 'em opening for Alice In Chains back in '93 during the 'Dirt' tour. Still gives me shivers...

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2014


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Well yeah, I don't think he'll top Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, but those were different times. Now he's in a different state, but just as consistent. I don't think you'll be blown by this album, but it makes for a great listen

Bombastik
October 22nd 2014


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@insomniac15 - I didn't mean you needed to talk about was jsut saying it was one that caught me early

I was kinda hoping this record would have a more tracks closer to sad lover from the ep, like that vocal styling

osmark86
October 23rd 2014


9029 Comments


sounds pretty sweet so far. never really give Mark much of a shot except for his works with QOTSA. planning on changing that since his style seems right down my alley.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 23rd 2014


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Blues Funeral is heavier osmark, some tracks are closer to QOTSA. Also, Bubblegum is really cool.

Alkemest
October 23rd 2014


316 Comments


I really like Blues Funeral, so I'll give this a listen sometime

AcidCaravan
October 24th 2014


448 Comments


I gave it a spin...bought it yesterday. Just like I thought, not a masterpiece. Anyway, I'm diggin' it a lot! A lot more than his last offerings. Great class as ever. Even if the old blues-maudit is now a quiet, wiser and mature man finally at peace with himself and the world, and the torment and brutal viscerality that made his records from "Whiskey For The Holy Ghost" up to "Bubblegum" so scary yet 'horribly' beautiful has almost completely vanished. And at 50, it's pretty normal, thank God. But if the results are so good, so fucking what.



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