Album Reviews

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of The Soul

(Parlophone) UK release date: 19 July 2010

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul

Originally released in 2009, Dark Night Of The Soul was delivered dead on arrival thanks to Parlophone and copyright issues. So it was that the album was released as a book of photography (provided by David Lynch) and a blank CD which was to be used to burn a leaked copy of the album. Between the original release and this more official offering, the deaths of contributor Vic Chestnutt and Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous have added a further layer of mystery and importance to the material within the confines of Dark Night Of The Soul.

Although Dangermouse and Linkous have collaborated before, on Sparklehorse’s Dreamt for Light Years In The Belly Of a Mountain, this collection goes one further with a guest performer/collaborator for each song.

To get around the pitfall of sounding like a disparate collection, it would appear that the album has been sequenced in movements. The opening three numbers for example, occupy a gloriously unsteady headspace. The vocalists for these songs (Wayne Coyne for Revenge, Gruff Rhys for Just War and Jason Lytle on Jaykub) have a similar style – fragile woozy and emotionally loaded. The songs themselves are a form of psychedelic Americana that is haunting, heartbreaking and ever so slightly unreal. Wayne Coyne hasn’t sounded this good since Yoshimi while Lytle is stunning. It’s a startling opening to the album.

There’s a move towards a punk/new wave sound at this point. Little Girl has Julian Casablancas sounding like he’s guesting on the song by The Strokes (it’s a missed opportunity). Black Francis‘ uninspired grunge limp through Angel’s Harp follows, which leaves Iggy Pop to rescue the situation with Pain – a dark and twisted race through a nightmarish world. His curiously understated vocal manages to remain effective as the music erupts in chaos around his mournful tones.

Then it’s back to more psychedelic tones courtesy of David Lynch, Jason Lytle, and James Mercer. Mercer’s delicate vocals grace the electro-fuzz gospel of Insane Lullaby with an incredibly deft touch. Just when the harsh backing track threatens to swamp him, his clear tones swerve and find a new melody to pierce the barrier of crackling noise. It’s probably the highlight of the album.

Country pop then takes over with Daddy’s Gone, a gloriously emotional duet between Nina Persson and Linkous, and Suzanne Vega‘s breathy The Man Who Played God. The latter’s clean production doesn’t quite fit in; it seems to have passed through the Dangermouse/Linkous prism without refracting in the slightest, which is a pity.

Vic Chesnutt‘s Grim Augury takes on a significant weight in light of his recent suicide. Its soulful blues waltz splattered with bloody imagery is grimly dark and disturbing. It sets up David Lynch’s crackling ghostlike title track perfectly though. It’s no surprise that something as unsettling as this sepia toned funereal creep would feature him, if he weren’t already on the track, it would no doubt be described as Lynchian.

Dark Night Of The Soul certainly has its moments, but in spite of the sequencing it sounds like a collection of songs rather than a singular body of work. That said, Linkous’ presence can be felt all over this record, and as a final statement, it’s got everything that is required: pain, death, beauty, anger, passion and love are all here, just as they should be.

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