Mark Lanegan Band: Somebody's Knocking (Heavenly) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 5th, 2020  

Mark Lanegan

Somebody’s Knocking

Heavenly

Dec 20, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Mark Lanegan began his career as an exponent of brooding melodic alt-rock via his work with criminally underrated Washington rock band Screaming Trees. When after seven studio albums the band spilt Lanegan remarked "We didn't have a damn thing in common except insanity-so we fought a lot." In the aftermath Lanegan embarked on a solo career (as well as joining The Queens of the Stone Age) and this year on his eleventh solo album, Somebody's Knocking, he reaches even further back in this past, beyond Screaming Trees, to his first love, electronic music. His appreciation of artists such as New Order, The Cure, and Depeche Mode shines through on what might be Lanegan's most optimistic solo album to date.

After surviving the excess of the '90s grunge rock scene which saw Screaming Trees lumped in with bands they had little in common with, Lanegan has always been an open minded artist, willing to expand his musical horizons with his solo work often veering off in surprising directions. He's collaborated with a likes of Isobel Campbell, Moby, Melissa Auf der Maur, Massive Attack, UNKLE, and many more. It's that willingness to experiment and to explore, to be artistically curious that has kept Lanegan's work interesting, fresh, and relevant to different generations of music fans over the years. 

Somebody's Knocking seamlessly fuses Lanegan's bluesy grunge rock roots with his love of electronica, whilst his atmospheric gruff stentorian vocals blend surprisingly well with an array of dark shimmering '80s synth-driven tracks. To suggest this album is purely all about Lanegan embracing a more overt synth sound is to do the album a disservice. It's a beautifully written, considered body of work and has been meticulously produced. Although it does call to mind the darker side of New Wave synth pop from yesteryear it's certainly not mired in retrograde nostalgia.

The album opener "Disbelief Suspension"a kind of Johnny Cash meets The Jesus and Mary Chain on route 66—is a pleasing albeit straightforward driving alt-rocker, but as the album progresses it starts to seamlessly morph into dark electro-pop territory and embraces a particularly British take on the genre. "Night Flight to Kabul" and "Dark Disco Jag" seem to have their feet firmly planted in The Cure/Sisters of Mercy school of grandiose "darkwave." The beautifully introspective "Playing Nero" starts off sounding not unlike Richard Hawley, with Joy Division's "Atmosphere" an obvious influence on the keyboard riff, and it drifts together quite beautifully. The dark neon glitter of "Penthouse High" with its rumbling bass lines and eerie synths is straight out of the New Order songbook of dark electro-dance music.

But whilst it's fun to play "spot the musical reference," it's an album to be judged and appreciated on its own musical merits. It's Lanegan's dark elegiac poetry and soulful delivery that imbue the glistening electronica with genuine humanity, and it's this that is very much the beating heart of this album. There's a sense of menace, regret, anger, and vulnerability but also hope running throughout the album, which all coalesce perfectly on album closer, the bittersweet "Two Bells Ringing At Once," and proves yet again what a consummate songwriter Lanegan is. It's an album of great depth and poignant melody and one that certainly rewards the listener after repeated plays. (www.marklanegan.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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