Mark Lanegan's creativity continues to manifest itself on his latest solo album 'Somebody's Knocking'. After countless collaborative releases, numerous band projects and ten previous solo albums, Lanegan shows that he still has new avenues to explore, new material to showcase and a completely new sound to unveil.
Lanegan's latest material is, to a large degree, like nothing he's done before. He may have hinted at the route he has taken here with some of his more upbeat songs on 'Bubblegum' and 'Gargoyle' but they only vaguely prepare you for what Lanegan has done on 'Somebody's Knocking'. It's radically different, unrestrained, at times over the top and completely compelling.
On his latest record Mark Lanegan has not quite thrown the kitchen sink in but he has plundered a rich seam of beloved musical influences to arrive at a sound that is joyously infectious, theatrically camp and refreshingly energised. His retro-leaning electro-infused compositions embrace his love of New Order and Depeche Mode but even these only give you a partial insight into how 'Somebody's Knocking' was arrived at.
The album's opener, 'Disbelief Suspension', is, as you would hope, the very best place to start. It doesn't follow on nicely from any previous Lanegan record, it doesn't ease you in so you can be become familiar with what you're about to hear and it does represent a change in direction that continues to unfold across the rest of the album. You don't as much suspend belief as check the cover, label, song title and artist just to make sure you're listening to the correct record. 'Disbelief Suspension' is a riot of re-imagined Hi-NRG with a stomping beat and irresistible revolving synth hook. The song is Mark Lanegan channelling his inner Divine to offer up a superbly subverted slice of indie-electronica. It's a surprise if not a revelation and it's quite brilliant.
Once you're in there's no turning back because the rest of the album is just as interesting and just as gripping. It's as though someone's just given Lanegan a shot of adrenalin compared to some of his previous work. Don't get me wrong, I've loved a lot of Mark's solo work and absolutely adore his duets with Isobel Campbell but the BPM never reached these levels before and Mark's voice never sounded as free or as happy as it does here. The sounds you hear and the references that Lanegan has taken are largely '80s derivatives, however Lanegan has fused them into something new creating a musical chimera with the electronic soundtracks and his rasping vocal.
The musical magic continues on through the immediacy of 'Letter Never Sent'; the beat of the seemingly dated drum machine adding a nice touch. There are influences and inspiration from a wide variety of sources. You can hear the Gothic grandeur of Sisters Of Mercy, the hedonism of Simple Minds, the intricate details of The Communards and even the highly energised bursts of energy that gave Transvision Vamp and The Primitives their fifteen minutes of fame. 'Dark Disco Jag' puts the drum machine even further to the fore in a dark and brooding composition that lightens slightly along the way, the electro loop and intermittent penetrating guitar riffs working supremely well together.
'Stitch It Up', the album's fastest and shortest (bar one) track brings the BPM back up and re-energises 'Something Knocking' at its mid-point. The fuzzy guitars, relentless beat and uplifting performance make it an irresistible piece of Indie Power Pop. The longest track on the album, 'Penthouse High' (even the name of the song sounds like it was written in Sheffield in 1980), is no less engrossing. The more considered, Moroder meets Jan hammer, subtly Disco driven track just melts as the warm electro blends seamlessly with Mark's most soulful vocal.
Elsewhere there are clear Joy Division nods on 'Radio Silence', a funky(bass) foray on the more familiar sounding 'She Loved You' and finally a stripped back piano ballad on 'Two Bells Ringing At Once'. The atmospheric, emotive track brings in a variety of percussive beats and stretched synth notes to soundtrack Lanegan's exposed vocal to cap the album off with a low key, but highly likable, conclusion.
'Somebody's Knocking' may knock some of Mark Lanegan's fans sideways with its variety of new sounds. Mark Lanegan's latest record is not shocking but it is incredible. It is not afraid; it is free, uplifting, energised and unapologetic. It sees Mark open, exposed, at the forefront and as creative and artistic as he's ever been. After nearly thirty years since his first solo record Mark Lanegan has just released one of his very best and there's not many artists who can claim that.