Album review: Soulsavers – ‘Broken’

A darkly majestic album that proves Mark Lanegan needs to search no longer

Since disbanding Screaming Trees it seems Mark Lanegan has been wandering the musical continents in search of some kind of muse to pair alongside his booming god-like voice. Not entirely aimlessly, admittedly – scratching the surface of cocksure hard rock with [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a], exploring the rudiments of country-tinged ballads with former [a]Belle & Sebastian[/a] songbird [a]Isobel Campbell[/a] and reimagining the machinations of alt.rock with The Gutter Twins have all been frolics that possess all the slap and tickle of a fondly remembered holiday romance, sans the regret.

But if there’s one particular dalliance that one of the original granddaddies of grunge is drawn to like a testy lover, then it’s most certainly [a]Soulsavers[/a]; a tumultuous amalgamation of zoned-out jazz lines, wistful soul vocals, moody strings, dreamlike electronic sequences and compact rock. And as Lanegan embarks on his second album with the electro-rock venture conceived by British dance supremos Rich Machin and Ian Glover, a band that’s into its third album proper and one that still maintains a tirelessly revolving door policy of collaborators, it would seem that Lanegan has finally found his ultimate match.

A veritable Dante’s Inferno of an album, ‘Broken’ seethes with laconic fury, bittersweet jealousy and self-indulgence, ponders on loss, grief and redemption and aches with love’s labours lost; it’s a record that speaks of dissonance and despondency and as such is instantaneously engrossing and comforting. Lanegan may have played the self-destructive card in previous incarnations – most tellingly on his version of ‘Ramblin’ Man’ from ‘Ballad Of The Broken Seas’ – but there’s an enticing mournfulness to his collaboration with Jason Pierce on ‘Pharaoh’s Chariot’, and a sadistic quality on ‘Death Bells’, which features vocals from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, that pits Lanegan among the greatest hopeless romantics; a caustic rock onslaught accompanies as he snarls, “Death bells are ringing lord, ringing in my ears… no-one at all to grow my graveyard flower”.

The trip-hop-leaning ‘Unbalanced Pieces’, which sees the mighty Mike Patton and Lanegan enter into a vocal tussle that plays off the former’s operatic-tinged falsetto and whispers with the latter’s crusted croon, carries with it a sense of foreboding. The delicate addition of chanteuse Rosa Agostino is the soothing tonic to Lanegan’s rage and talk of “crippled valentines” as the pair duet to the cathartic ‘Rolling Skies’.

Wander no more, Lanegan. It’s clear to see that, with Soulsavers, you’ve found salvation.

Ash Dosanjh

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Click here to get your copy of Soulsavers’ ‘Broken’ from the Rough Trade shop.