22 January 2009

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart

V2 (2008)

Lanegan has settled into a career of collaboration, which may be what he needs after a life of strife and tribulation. Along with his musical marriage to Campbell, he collaborates with fellow Sub Pop survivor Greg Dulli in Gutter Twins. This, of course, was after his work with QOTSA shoved him, squinting, into the limelight.

The title track, with Lanegan tenderly requesting regard, reminds this listener of his fantastic cover of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Consider Me’, from 1999. Not quite as stunning as that one, this duet is a lovely appetiser nonetheless: a paragon of delicate brevity.

‘Fight Fire With Fire’ may not be a rendition of the Metallica classic, but its surprising jauntiness keeps you listening through a charmingly superficial look at relationships: ‘I say Dirty Deeds, you say Back in Black. Or maybe Hysteria too’. Not a ‘Mutt’ Lange fan then, Mark?

It all comes together on ‘Asleep on a Sixpence’, a sparse, black lullaby that veteran Lan fans will be at home with. It’s a shame there isn’t more of this, because its quality rather eclipses the rest of the songs. Yes, they’re uplifting, and lovely, but ultimately unsatisfying in comparison. Nowhere is this more evident than ‘Hang On’, an Isobel-only track that could be a Shivaree or Devics out-take.

I would not be so churlish as to suggest Lanegan’s suffering is my pleasure (I love him dearly), but there is a definite correlation between his years of substance use and the quality he turned out. Balanced on a razor edge between the psyche-ish rock of Screaming Trees and the alco-gothic output on his awesome solo albums, Lanegan didn’t put a musical foot wrong. This arguably peaked on the emotional captive bolt pistol headshot that was 1998’s Scraps at Midnight.

There is no ‘Sworn and Broken’ on here. Nor an ‘In the Fade’ or Mark ‘n’ Isobel’s own ‘Why Does My Head Hurt So?’ But that’s not to suggest this is duff; more that Lanegan is capable of true greatness. Yes, their take on Lee and Nancy is compelling, but less so than Lan being Lan. Perhaps I miss the point: maybe this is Lan now. Maybe he’s finally happy after all these years in the wilderness. Fair play to him, he deserves it. A solo album wouldn’t go amiss though.

Read this at FACT too!

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