Mark Lanegan's seventy-year-old voice holds up fine on an album as ugly as a gargoyle.Heavenly Recordings, 2017
3.5 / 10
Depending on how much you value the Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan could be a legend. I say “could” because Screaming Trees still aren’t one of those bands that lands alongside Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, or Alice In Chains in the grunge conversation. Unless you just have one of those friends with a desire to be the unique one in your group. Truth be told, it’s a shame that Screaming Trees aren’t as popular as those other bands. Lanegan’s voice is the stuff of wonders. He sounded like an old man before he became an old man. Hell, he’s only in his early fifties now! Brooding comes natural with a voice like his and easily conveys sadness, grief, tragedy…pretty much anything somber. With Gargoyle, his latest release from the Mark Lanegan Band, he really plays up his seventy-year-old voice. Without it, there wouldn’t be much here to praise.
Other than Lanegan’s voice sounding old (which is good), the music sounds old (which is bad). It sounds like something a guy out of touch with the modern music would make. Rather than the garbage electronic experimentation of some of Gargoyle’s other songs, “Beehive” actually returns to Lanegan’s roots. It has a soaring guitar riff and an easy enough chorus, “Honey just gets me stoned.” However, it sounds recorded in 1991. Compare this to The Jesus and Mary Chain’s latest album, which stands up against their younger peers. Here, “Beehive” is ready to make a home in the discount bin of your local record store. And I would call this one of Gargoyle’s better songs.
Elsewhere, “Nocturne” stands out as one of the album’s better electronic tracks with some menacing guitar behind it. Lanegan’s tortured vocals sound particularly ghoulish for his dark lyricism. He sings, “Anchor chained around your neck/ Christ is in your hands/ Whispering behind your back/ Falling where you stand.” Kind of spooky, right? And from the mouth of Lanegan, it’s a little terrifying. Unfortunately, not much else registers as memorable in a good way. “First Day of Winter” wants to ride a line of introspective and somber and does come off as sad. However, it’s not the way Lanegan intends. He even inserts a few ‘whoos’ into the mix to inspire a feeling that just isn’t there. Unless that feeling is boredom.