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Posted on October 22nd, 2014 (2:00 pm) by Jesse Clark

Former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has never quite grown out of the '90s. But by no means is that a bad thing because now that autumn is here, it’s time to break out those flannels and a pack of cigarettes and bask in the nostalgia of grunge and electronica. Phantom Radio, the latest record from the Mark Lanegan Band, takes elements from both genres and combines them for a stern but mellow take on the classic blues.

The theme behind this record is that it feels like a modern western opus, just in time for the change of seasons. It’s a perfect album for the Day of the Dead because it has those dark melodies and even darker lyrical content. With songs like “The Killing Season,” “Torn Red Heart,” and “Death Trip To Tulsa,” you can plainly see what state of mind and mood Lanegan was in while crafting this album. It’s a tortured record with a lot of enthusiasm but lacks some basic creativity. If it weren’t for the beautifully composed melodies and matter-of-fact lyrics, the album would falter under the absence of innovative percussion and synths and other overused electronic effects. The album has the feel of a '90s classic but just doesn’t fit with the times. That being said, it’s around this time of year that people crave for the '90s-feel, whether it’s because of the haunted atmosphere of the Blair Witch Project or the heroin-drenched Marcy Playground hit “Sex & Candy.” There’s just something about the autumn air that smells like 1996, which is good news for any struggling '90s artists.

One of the songs that drives this album is “The Killing Season” for it’s suave lyrics and guitar-fueled angst. This is one of the few songs where the synths don’t overkill the song and actually come off like late-'80s/early-'90s artists like Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. A song like “I Am The Wolf” could only fit on an album like this one. Lanegan’s guitar work makes him seem like a shadowy figure with his skilled Spanish influence. It’s the type of playing only a classically trained guitarist can pull off, which Lanegan is not afraid to prove.

If any one of these tracks sincerely belongs in the previous decade it’s “Harvest Home.” With its righteous melody and hard-hitting lyrics, this song just screams for the harvest season. This song is killer and it’s bound to be the only one to get any recognition off the album and that’s a shame. For all of the flaws this album has, it’s still a worth the thirty-eight minutes.

“Waltzing In Blue” is a bit of a change of pace in comparison to the rest of the record but it still shows how much Lanegan is trying to create a theme of eclecticism while remaining faithful to the overall atmosphere of the album. The heavy “Death Trip To Tulsa” brings Phantom Radio to it’s inevitable close and they made the right choice ending the album on a dark note. As they say, it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Phantom Radio shows aspects of grunge, metal, electronica, industrial music and of course, the blues. If anyone is in need to prove the argument that all modern rock music has been in some way, shape, or form been influenced by blues music, this record is it. It shows how music has come full circle, with some innovations and improvements. This is by no means an award-winning album nor does it even attempt to be. But it’s an improvement in the direction contemporary music has been heading, even if it does take us a few steps back.

Track List:

  1. Harvest Home
  2. Judgement Time
  3. Floor Of The Ocean
  4. The Killing Season
  5. Seventh Day
  6. I Am The Wolf
  7. Torn Red Heart
  8. Waltzing In Blue
  9. Wild People
  10. Death Trip To Tulsa
Mark Lanegan Band: Phantom Radio
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

68 / 100
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