posted on June 23, 2009 19:00
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse 'Dark Night Of The Soul'
Review Snapshot: Artists fall out with record label, release album for free online as a parting shot. Nope I’m not talking about Machina II by the Smashing Pumpkins, but Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and friends. DNOTS does dabble, however, in similarly dark realms. Shiny summer pop this isn’t, store it up for the winter. It's late night introverted pop and it's a curious aside in the Danger Mouse canon.
The Cluas Verdict? 6.9 out of 10
Full Review: As if parting ways with Paul McCartney and Radiohead wasn't enough kudos-shattering for one decade, EMI now finds itself embroiled in a right kerfuffle with the enduringly zeitgesity producer-cum-cash cow Danger Mouse. His über collaboration-compilation with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse - featuring such luminaries as Frank Black, Iggy Pop, Julian Casablancas, Gruff Rhys, and Nina Persson (The Cardigans) - has been streaming online on NPR for the past few weeks , originally in anticipation of a physical release through EMI. However, following disagreement with EMI over release logistics, Mouse et al have opted for the pragmatic route. With David Lynch contributing a vast collection of photography described as a "visual narrative" to the music, the album's completion was marked by a limited release of an artbook of these photographs along with "a blank CD-R as an artefact to use however you see fit".
It might not be available on an official CD release, or via a legitimate download, but this is not something that would stop CLUAS from reviewing it. That nice NPR stream of the album came in handy...
So, how does it rate?
Well, Gnarls Barkley it isn't. Nor would you expect Danger Mouse not to diversify with every new project he embarks on. Given the time of year this album has reached Cluas Towers, you might expect Danger Mouse to have one eye on shiny summer pop-ulism. Not the case. Its a remarkably dark album, perhaps best stored up for those dull introverted winter nights.
Album opener 'Revenge' finds a pensive Flaming Lips churning out what can loosely be described as a sombre retake of 'Fight Test' in that it features the same Wayne Coyne confidence-inducing brand of lyrics but in a far more stifled and moody fashion. Although slow-paced a lá Beck's cover of "I Need Your Lovin (Like The Sunshine)" it does reach an intense drum-laden crescendo, the kind that leaves you wishing that this was a full-length Flaming Lips album in its own right so they could continue exploring this newfound dark sound.
The renaissance of Gruff Rhys finds a new chapter on 'Just War' - it starts out as a swampy slide guitar effort but quickly sidesteps into electricified layers. Although oozing in complexities, its actually quite a simple tongue-in-cheek anti-war song.
Another highlight includes Frank Black's appearance on 'Angel's Harp' - it has all you would want from Black - the thrashy guitars, the iconic wail, its fantastic. Although sounding quite fresh and new, its possibly the most Pixie-esque track he's written since that band stopped recording together.
Apparently all the vocalists on this album were sent instrumental tracks and simply asked to record over them with whatever vocals they wanted and its pretty evident on Iggy Pop's effort 'Pain'. By no means Iggy Pop's worst ever project - see his Sum 41 collaboration - it does come across as a self-indulgent imitation of Ian Curtis. Even though there mightn't have been a Joy Division without the Iggy influence, this song just isn't good.
The rest of the album is very filler-ed - albeit with some bright spots from Nina Persson and Julian Casablancas - but on the whole DNOTS keeps Danger Mouse up there on the producer wishlists across the popular music landscape. Surely Michael Jackson will be on the phone to recruit him for that comeback album any day now...