Review: Mark Lanegan draws on 1980s to back singular vision

By PABLO GORONDI | Fri, October 18, 2019 12:53 EDT

Mark Lanegan Band, "Somebody's Knocking" (Heavenly Recordings)

Can Mark Lanegan lend credibility to the 1980s, that regularly disparaged but nevertheless exciting decade reduced by detractors to plastic keyboards and robotic drums?

On "Somebody's Knocking," he makes a valiant and magnetic effort by drawing electronic inspiration from New Order and Depeche Mode while often sounding like Iggy Pop backed by the Psychedelic Furs and produced by The Cure's Robert Smith.

From fronting grunge cult band Screaming Trees to tormented solo albums and collaborations with Isobel Campbell, Duke Garwood and Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan has repeatedly found new paths.

"Somebody's Knocking" sees the Los Angeles resident lending his tree trunk of a voice to stories imbued in our brutal times, but treating the withering chaos with humor, empathy and a pronounced weirdness.

Longtime associate Alain Johannes, Rob Marshall, Martin Jenkins and Sietse van Gorkom, among others, help Lanegan build songs that echo the more inspired sounds of the '80s.

That vintage can be appreciated across the whole album, exemplified by the likes of churning opening track "Disbelief Suspension," projected floor-filler "Penthouse High" and the regretful "She Loved You."

Darker voltages cast their shadow over the criminally explicit "Stitch It Up" and "Night Flight to Kabul," which could be about a mercenary whose dreams of glory have transformed into a brazen search for pecuniary rewards.

Even when the intensity abates, like on "Playing Nero," the menacingly spooky road song "Paper Hat" and the deliriously biblical "Two Bells Ringing at Once," the flights of Lanegan's imagery remain far in spaced-out territories.

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