Published Oct 17, 2014On ninth album Phantom Radio, former Screaming Trees vocalist and Queens of the Stone Age contributor Mark Lanegan and his band have channeled post-punk influences and grunge peers for an art-pop blended piece of American goth. Lanegan kicks the Joy Division synths into overdrive and uses the sound as a vehicle for his dark, Tom Waits-esque poetry.
The moody tone of the album is established with the celestial ruminations of "Harvest Home," which, along with "Judgment Time," reveals Lanegan's penchant for rarely letting songs evolve in a traditional or straightforward manner. The synthesizers serve this arrangement, providing soundscapes over which Lanegan melodically projects his thoughts on death, heaven, hell and sin. Even without synth prominence, songs like "I Am the Wolf" and "Jonas Pap" have a difficult time becoming more than their foundations suggest, exploring little and walking a tumultuous line that desires a climax.
The predominantly melancholic album, perhaps best typified by the lyric "I've been dying since the day I was born," is interrupted halfway through by incredibly accomplished love song "Torn Red Heart." A softer Lanegan is on display for this track, as is a much-needed guitar solo from the grunge connoisseur. Yet, as a rock and roll journeyman, Lanegan's interesting direction on Phantom Radio is commendable even if it is not entirely magnetic. After 30 years of musical ascendency, Lanegan has earned the right to do what he wants. (Vagrant)