In a week where everybody was raving about the new sub-par Gorillaz album, Mark Lanegan flew somewhat under the radar with the release of possibly the best album of the year thus far, and the first five star rating on the site (Chuck Prophet can feel hard done by for this).
The last fortnight has seen a focus on the veterans of the trade. Lanegan and Hitchcock can both rightly claim to have released brilliant albums in the past, but in April 2017, Mark Lanegan sees himself claim bragging rights in a head-to-head for best release. Unlike Hitchcock’s release, Lanegan’s new album: Gargoyle does not disappoint. And why should it? Lanegan has been releasing solid album after solid album going on almost 30 years, so brilliant albums are now the default. The same can be said for Lanegan’s current record label: Heavenly. Oddly enough, Heavenly was founded in the same year that Lanegan released his first solo album (1990) and, since then, they have made a reputation picking up both new and well-established artists in the alternative music scene; churning out great albums back to back. Clearly, therefore, this is a mix made in heaven(-ly), and maybe we shouldn’t be so taken aback by the quality of Lanegan’s latest work.
Over the years, Lanegan has developed a tendency to collaborate with other alternative artists. In recent years, he has worked with Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers, and Isobell Campbell. HAWK, with Isobel Campbell was one of the best collaborative albums released since the turn of the decade (Pitchfork stated it warranted a review of 7.5/10 – they lied). His latest album, however, demonstrates – to those who were still unsure – that Lanegan doesn’t need the support of other artists to produce something of quality. Its similarity in style to a lot of his collaborative work also suggests Lanegan is the creative driving force behind more of his joint albums.
Considering the album, ‘Gargoyle’ is much like Lanegan’s previous work: many layers of instrumental tracks, embedded behind Lanegan’s deep and un-hurried vocals. A style that he has perfected over the years, ‘Gargoyle’ is a perfectly mixed alt-rock album, and quite probably the apex of his current insofar.
Opening with the fast and energetic ‘Death’s Head Tatoo’, the album captures your attention instantly. Across the 40 minute album, Lanegan switches tempo regularly, with ‘Goodbye to Beauty’ coming directly after the juxtaposed ‘Emperor’. The result of these shifts is the album’s ability to maintain interest across its entirety, giving off an air of confidence from Lanegan, who is willing to mix up listings with success. It is less common to see an artist play with tempo and style in a single album, with many new artists tending to stick to a singular type of sing throughout. Lanegan’s confidence could certainly derive from his extensive experience in the industry.
Unlike some albums I have reviewed, I won’t suggest you listen to this album just once, for the experience, and then move on. This album is a classic, and will retain its value and intrigue for years. Save this album in your Spotify, or better yet, buy a hard copy. Lanegan’s work is under-appreciated, a point made painfully clear this week following the clash of releases from Lanegan himself, and Gorillaz. If this is the first you’ve heard about either release, instead of rushing out to listen to Gorillaz’s ‘Humanz’, make a beeline straight for Gargoyle; you won’t regret it.
Artist: Mark Lanegan
Release date: April 28, 2017
Play time: 41 mins
Standout track: Emperor