A well travelled musician, you may know Mark Lanegan as much from his solo output as his time spent playing with the Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age. As one would expect, Lanegan has seemingly seen it all and he brings all of his experience to the fore on Gargoyle, his tenth solo effort. The 10-track LP features guest appearances from long-time collaborators, Josh Homme, Greg Dulli and Duke Garwood.
The record opens with a heavy thum bass and a voice that sounds like it has spent many a night drinking bourbon and smoking endless Marlboro. ‘Death’s Head Tattoo’ has a metronomic electric beat and a bass that winds all the way into your very soul causing you to get up and move. Familiar territory this may be, but this is a man that knows just how to write a song. ‘Nocturne’ bounces in and then a guitar line from the dark corners of the world sets up the atmosphere. It is the bastard child of New Order, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave but my God what hooks Lanegan can cook up. If you like your rock deep down and dirty then this is for you. ‘Blue Blue Sea’ starts off like a demented sea-shanty. There is something disturbingly, hauntingly beautiful about the organ melody.
‘Beehive’ pulses and with lyrics like ‘scenes of dying light, everywhere the firecracker summer’ we are left in no doubt that the mood is bleak. This is kept up in ‘Sister’ where Lanegan sings a sweet lament. Singing ‘All these lonely things, I have held so near, you gleam just the same yet your never here’ suggests a fragility and weariness with the world of love
‘Emperor’ is a sweet little rocker with a guitar that jumps and a chorus that is uplifting. ‘Goodbye to Beauty’ is a ballad that lives long in the memory, illustrating that the band is no one trick pony as they are capable of mixing it up when needs be.
‘Drunk on Destruction’ shows that at the ripe age of fifty-two Lanegan is in fine fettle. The lyric states: “I feel I’m fading away”, however, the music is both expressive and upbeat suggesting that this is a man that has a lot more left. ‘First Day of Winter’ is, like many of the greatest song, both beautiful and sorrowful. Indeed the refrain of sorrow in the verse has a slight nod to the Bowie cover of the same name. The use of falsetto is stunning and sets a haunting tone. ‘Old Swan’ sees this ten song offering ride off into the sunset, leaving behind the crowded cities of certainty and setting out into the wide and wild open spaces of possibility.