Album Review: Dangermouse / Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of The Soul

June 2, 2009

 I'm glad you went to art school, too.

Concept: Various artists, from The Strokes to The Shins to The Flaming Lips to Iggy Pop to The Pixies, lay down their personal touch for Sparklehorse’s bandwork and Dangermouse’s mixing, with David Lynch granting his visual media stylings and teasing publicity boosts, all of them composing and producing in hopes of an overhaul tearjerker. There’s no story, but the theme is self-evident, and complimented by the looming uncertainties surrounding its production.

Sound: Each contributing artist’s background can be heard on their respective track, but the foremost artists do a good job of blending in with their guests and finding the smoothest sequence between them. They all end up being worthwhile tracks, if often a little slow for most occassions. The first track, featuring Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, is perhaps the greatest success: an emotional wrecking ball that clears the way for simpler tracks to fester in the listener. The majority of the album is clean and soothing but bleak, in step with Sparklehorse’s usual fare with a few thrashing exceptions. Dangermouse does a stand-up job on his first pop album. He adds a drunken carnival backdrop, but when he cuts in front things become erratic and cold, in case we forgot the subject matter of the songs. Things aren’t all rosy for Dark Night of the Soul, though. The album isn’t quite grounded by its mood: the revolving door of vocalists can be disruptive for anyone who wasn’t sticking them in their daily playlists long beforehand.

Lyrics: For an album emphasizing a mood, the lyricism is really too specific and/or indulgent most of the time. The lyrical style and content of the guest artists may be more disjointed than their sound. We find that all the artists, by trying to take themselves to a space of misery and darkness, isolate themselves from each other. Each dark night is unique. Maybe that’s the way the album was meant to be perceived: a kaleidoscopic tour through cramped and mutilating rooms. This is not to place emphasis on the lyrics as something important to the piece, however. They are often second-rate, and certainly secondary to the songwriting.

Quick And Dirty: If you’ve been waiting for this album there’s nothing I can really say to make you feel better about the difficulty you’ll have obtaining it, but it’s not a catastrophe. Still, it is a strange and valuable statement which now hangs tattered and black on the name of each artist involved. Oh, and you may stream the album from NPR by following the link below. (♦♦♦½)


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