Mark Lanegan Band

Phantom Radio

Written by: TL on 18/12/2014 15:35:18

In today's episode of "We're late, but we're still reviewing this because if we didn't how could we really call ourselves a rock mag?", time has come to take a look at "Phantom Radio", the ninth album by Mark Lanegan, whose name readers may recognise for his work with Screaming Trees, The Gutter Twins or Queens Of The Stone Age among others. The album follows 2012's "Blues Funeral" (not counting 2013's covers album "Imitations"), and while Lanegan has once again shacked up with QOTSA producer Alain Johannes, the new album tunes down the menacing desert rock vibes and instead gives way for a more playful expression, notably allowing plenty of room for icy synths that wouldn't sound out of place on a record by The Horrors or David Bowie for instance.

It's only one element in a rather diverse and well-mixed production however, where each song seems to find a new instrument circling around Lanegan's dark, wavering voice, the depth of which continues to align with the tones of guys like Tom Waits, Nick Cave and indeed also Bowie and Leonard Cohen. Steady tracks like opener "Harvest Home" and "Floor Of The Ocean" seem to be the point of departure for "Phantom Radio", casting Lanegan as a veteran badass that's not to be messed with, with the keyboards merely adding an extra meditative element.

Across the spread of "The Killing Season", "Seventh Day" and "I Am The Wolf" though, things loosen up a bit, making for slightly more queer tracks, where Lanegan's delivery takes on a hint of oddness that really brings Tom Waits to mind, yet at times sound like he's a bit out of his comfort zone. "I Am The Wolf" crawls along like a re-imagining of "House Of The Rising Sun" set as soundtrack to a Western movie, yet "Seventh Day" does better with a funky bit of swagger to it that recalls 'Stones "Sympathy For The Devil" via the rhythm section.

Following these mid-section cuts though, things get a bit long in the teeth, lasting from the intended tenderness of "Torn Red Heart" and almost to the end of the album. "Death Trip To Tulsa" ends on a good note though, having a menacing mood and some vocal lines that bring out the best in Lanegan's voice type, and it would be the best track on the record if it wasn't for "Judgement Time", where the qualities in the volumous singing truly comes out in a minimalistic interplay with gently strummed acoustic guitar and a meandering organ. Coincidentally, the absense of drums here also obscures the fact that the songs on "Phantom Radio" are completely static rhythmically, with little to nothing changing tempo-wise once a track has got going.

Overall, Lanegan's singing is good enough to be a quality in itself, and the diversity of both the instrumentation and the types of tracks - combined with Johannes' expertly orchestrated production levels - makes for a bit less than forty minutes of listening that pace forward without ever getting too boring or monotone. Yet at the same time you could argue that the frozen tempos and and laid back attitudes hardly get very dramatic or exciting at any point either. An interesting listen then, if not quite an exhilarating one.


Download: Judgement Time, Floor Of The Ocean, Death Trip To Tulsa
For The Fans Of: The Gutter Twins, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, David Bowie

Release date 21.10.2014
Vagrant Records

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