Published Aug 22, 2018Besides being one of the only grunge frontmen still ticking, Mark Lanegan has never rested on his legacy with the Screaming Trees. After the breakup of his Seattle-based band in 2000, Lanegan released a sturdy stream of albums as a solo artist while collaborating with Queens of the Stone Age, Soulsavers and Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs (under the name the Gutter Twins). But other than his albums with vocalist Isobel Campbell, Lanegan has rarely strayed from his comfort zone.
With the release of With Animals, his second collaboration with English multi-instrumentalist (and touring band member) Duke Garwood, Lanegan doesn't change his musical M.O. so much as Garwood alters the tone and mood in which his bluesy vocals are delivered. Where the duo's first album, 2013's Black Pudding, was flanked by Garwood's sparse guitar arrangements, their latest features dusty tape loops, brittle drum machines and a lo-fi eight-track recording sound that gives Lanegan's dark-night-of-the-soul delivery a whole new aesthetic.
The trick to With Animals is its brevity, as only two of the album's 12 tracks surpass the four-minute mark. On album highlights "My Shadow Life" and "With Animals," Garwood coils simple guitar lines, keeping things hypnotic and digestible. On "Save Me" and "Scarlett," Lanegan spaces out his verses, giving these songs the sense of gravitas he's always dreamed of delivering, while allowing terrific lyrics like, "I picked a winter daffodil, and spied a lonesome infidel, I know I'm going out of my head," to stand out.
Throughout his 32-year career, Mark Lanegan has sounded original approximately twice: at the apex of his time with the Screaming Trees, and right now. (Heavenly)