October 17, 2019 Mark Lanegan Band – Somebody’s Knocking (Album Review)
Inscrutable Vocalist Mark Lanegan is back with Somebody’s Knocking, his latest solo work under the Mark Lanegan Band moniker. Due on Friday, October 18th, the album will see release through Heavenly Recordings, his recent home for 2017’s Gargoyle as well as two collaborations with Duke Garwood – 2013’s Black Pudding and 2018’s With Animals.
Long the frontman for Pacific Northwest force Screaming Trees, Lanegan has never been one for sitting idle, even as the Trees were enjoying a modicum of success. Instead, collaborations with Mad Season (which also featured Screaming Trees Drummer Barrett Martin), Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli (under both the Gutter Twins and Twilight Singers monikers), and even a short residence in Queens of the Stone Age have filled his cabinets with low-slung soulful diatribes. Lanegan is not exactly a sad dude, but his voice always has a bit of sullen melancholy baked into its deep, soulful vibe, and the result is often compared to growlers like Tom Waits.
This historic detail laid out, the deep guitar cuts of “Disbelief Suspension” kicks off the new album. Fitting well with the Lanegan catalog to this point, it almost obscures what you are going to experience within the remaining 13 tracks of Somebody’s Knocking. Then there are songs like “Stitch It Up” which was released as a goofy long-form video earlier this year. Featuring Donal Logue in his familiar “Jimmy the Cab Driver” character from Nineties MTV lore, in the video Jimmy has morphed into a rideshare driver, darting around Los Angeles, picking up Lanegan in various settings and costumes. The video more than doubles the unfortunately short running time of the track, but showcases Lanegan at his most crisp and ebullient.
Immediate predecessor, “Gazing from the Shore” set the tone for these clear vocals; the otherwise up-tempo song also gives birth to the album title, as the vocals croon, “somebody’s knocking / is anyone there? / I was a carpenter / building this house / and now it’s ashen.” Then there is a hypnotic pulse that runs underneath “Dark Disco Jag,” above which Langean manages to maneuver, dodging his way around sounds both digital and analog. Though he adapts well to his chosen surrounding, his distinct voice is always present, and there seem to be no effects on his vocals, other than the years of living hard and honing his craft. Thereafter “Playing Nero” tugs at the old cemented wounds of slow high school dances and broken promises. This is while Gargoyle sessions carry over cut “Penthouse High” follows by paving over the pain and brings the rousing romantic comedy to an arm-raising fruitful end, a theme later revisited by “She Loved You.”
Keeping the album interesting, “War Horse” leans toward ’90s Trip Hop, and the hitch in its step helps the stirrup-clucking chorus navigate the stream of consciousness offered in place of traditional verses. On the other end of the spectrum “Night Flight to Kabul” is a brisk, danceable tune that leans toward some of the more recent work from English blokes James, while Subtle closer “Two Bells Ringing at Once” take some sublimity from Scottish Pop outfit Chvrches.
Mark Lanegan told Rolling Stone magazine, “I’ve always been into electronic music… the bulk of what I listen to now is electronic,” and rather than nibble around the edges of his albums with undertones, he has chosen to issue an entire platter of warm electronic goodness. The result is Somebody’s Knocking, an album ripe with fresh takes on old sounds, with the distinct voice of Lanegan playing several different roles, volumes, and moods. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Somebody’s Knocking 4 out of 5 stars.