Mark Lanegan
Gargoyle


3.5
great

Review

by insomniac15 STAFF
April 28th, 2017 | 42 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Although experiments are always welcomed, at times they don't suit Mark's trademark voice and vibe...

During the ‘00s, Mark Lanegan started shifting from acoustic & lush blues-meets-alternative rock ditties to a darker, raucous style that favored more “mechanical” dynamics. Bubblegum is where things started changing, but the brilliant Blues Funeral is where the magic resided. Alain Johannes helped him embrace a different sound, enhanced by electronic elements yet retaining that murky atmosphere (at times, turning it into a haunting experience). Phantom Radio saw the two men reaching further into the ‘80s, taking cues from The Cure or Depeche Mode, whereas the latest affair, Gargoyle goes all the way back to krautrock in the ‘70s. It’s an interesting direction which became clearer in the past couple of years, unfortunately, it doesn’t feel as rewarding as the previous LPs. At the same time, half of the material was crafted with the help of Exit Calm’s Rob Marshall, who brought a different perspective and tone too. All three clearly worked to unify these truly diverse tunes into a cohesive whole, but there are some eyebrow-raising moments left.

I believe Mark’s voice works best with minimalist, thrilling and/or really stark arrangements (for example ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’, ‘Methamphetamine Blues’, ‘St. Louis Elegy’, ‘Phantasmagoria Blues’ or ‘Death Trip to Tulsa’). On Gargoyle, the sound is brighter than usual and thus, the contrast is a bit too high. As a result, ‘Blue Blue Sea’ or ‘Drunk on Destruction’ reach pretty far out of his comfort zone, the former relying heavily on sequencers, while the latter boasts a drum and bass beat over razor sharp guitars. The songs aren’t deceiving, they just sound odd amid his usual output and kill some of that old school vibe he portrays so well. There’s also the jangly ‘Emperor’, reminiscing perhaps too much the swaying groove of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’. Could be a silent tribute to the legend himself, still, when the “la-las” kick in I find myself humming the classic one instead. It’s a bit of a shame, since Lanegan’s doing a strong job with the low-pitched vocals. Furthermore, I think a grittier version would have been significantly more effective.

Although I started talking about the less rewarding tracks, Gargoyle is nowhere near a failure. The remaining cuts create a beautiful blend of tenebrous and hazy atmosphere. The three main songwriters melded rock with electronica really nice throughout. ‘Death’s Head Tattoo’ brings forth the synths and percussion over which Mark’s ghastly croon slowly crawls along. The mix is interesting, borrowing some techniques from the industrial genre, the string work is drenched in distortion, whereas the electronics are significantly more prominent. Moreover, ‘Nocturne’ shares some eerie guitars, especially on the chorus where they gorgeously rise, accompanied by keyboard leads. There’s a new spin on the styles used on previous records and it’s refreshing. Closer to the krautrock roots, ‘Old Swan’ boasts the trademark motorik beat, accompanied by echoed guitars. The rather linear direction offers Lanegan a great platform to perform some of the best melodies on the album. The structure gets blurrier with each minute, until only the windy keys and deep bass remain to close the affair. This song finally brings all the influences together leaving us a clearer result of what their vision was all along.

Completing the LP, ‘First Day of Winter’ and ‘Goodbye to Beauty’ are subdued, pastoral tracks that harken back to earlier efforts. As Mark graces us with some exquisite, intimate vocal contributions, the warm notes pass you by like a slow, pleasant breeze. On the other hand, returning to the “mechanical” grooves I mentioned above, ‘Beehive’ is probably the most driving cut on Gargoyle. The poignant guitar leads push forward just like they did on Blues Funeral, albeit the overall sound integrates itself well into the current boundaries.

In the end, you can’t blame Mark Lanegan for constantly experimenting at this point in his career. I admire him for jumping out of the comfort zone, incessantly carving his trademark niche, even though results aren’t always stellar. The man showed us how versatile can he be, however, I wish he’d go back to making a chunkier record. The synth bonanza of the latest works is interesting and keeps things intriguing (as well as fun) to a certain extent, but doesn’t maintain that brooding vibe he brilliantly pulls off. Anyway, Gargoyle marks another solid addition to an extensive catalog and I’m curious where he’ll head next.




Recent reviews by this author
Causa Sui Vibraciones DoradasCairo Knife Fight Seven
Bodyjar Terra FirmaCarbon Based Lifeforms Derelicts
Monolord RustWith the Dead Love from With the Dead
user ratings (34)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2017


4388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good record, but I want my Mark Lanegan dark and uneasy, while this is a bit lighter than expected.



'Beehive' (official video) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7JCndWHBRg

'Nocturne' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXdwuqB7pDQ

'Old Swan' - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUezUNkbAc8

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2017


5700 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

nice one.. yea, this one had some proper clunkers on it.. always nice to hear his voice.. but he can't salvage a lot of the material here..

L4titudes
April 28th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Still waiting to find a stream for the full album. I don't love the 3 songs he released before hands but hoping they grow on me and fit good in context of the album. Good review.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2017


4388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, some of the songs here don't fit him that much and it feels.



Thank you! I couldn't find a stream to link to, only these three songs.

Pho3nix
April 28th 2017


360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've yet to listen to this, but I wish he went back to maybe collaborating with other artists again - he has that voice that's really good for duets.

L4titudes
April 28th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Him and Isobel Campbell on Ballad of the Broken Seas was amazing I though. I hope his next album can fuse his older bare bones americana style (I'll Take Care of You, Field Songs) mixed with the weird 80's atmospheres that Blues Funeral brought. It would be my favorite album of his for sure.

L4titudes
April 28th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Mark is a great artist but I'm waiting for him to put out a landmark album. I'll Take Care of You, Bubblegum, and Blues Funeral are close for me but not quite classics.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2017


4388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

For me Blues Funeral is his best stuff, even though in the original review I wrote I wasn't too convinced. I listen to it regularly and I love the sound and vibe it creates, but yeah, it still feels as if he can release a better one (this is probably why I am a bit bummed with the current direction).

danielcardoso
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2017


11562 Comments


Nice one bud, really hope i dig this more than you tho :D

rodrigo90
April 28th 2017


3319 Comments


Is he going to return to the screaming trees anytime soon? no? ok...

rodrigo90
April 28th 2017


3319 Comments


He has become the new Morrisey of grunge. Congratulations Mark.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2017


4388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Daniel - Thanks! It grew on me after some listens, but it ain't spectacular (aside from 2-3 awesome tracks).

RedRightHand
April 28th 2017


69 Comments


I digs what I hears! Fucking kudos on the experimentation, I think it suits him much more than most here I guess!

xfearbefore
April 29th 2017


1484 Comments


Good review man, think I'll have to check out Mark's solo stuff I love Screaming Trees but never got around to his later work.

Digging: Kevin Abstract - American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story

danielcardoso
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2017


11562 Comments


Hey man definitely check Holy Ghost and Blues Funeral.

L4titudes
April 29th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I enjoyed this a lot more than expected.There are a few lackluster tracks but at the same time there are so many different styles and sonic subtleties sprinkled throughout this that justify the failed attempts.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2017


16458 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Looking forward to this a modicum you feel

Digging: Cathal Coughlan - The Sky's Awful Blue

L4titudes
April 29th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I feel ya

PostMesmeric
April 29th 2017


702 Comments


Really loved this album.

L4titudes
April 29th 2017


3447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You're not alone man



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy