Over a year after it first hit the internet, Dark Night of the Soul – the collaboration between Danger Mouse, the late and much-lamented Mark Linkous, David Lynch and a revolving cast of vocalists – is finally getting an official release this week. If you’ve not managed to “acquire” a copy of the album yet, we strongly recommend getting hold of it when it hits stores on July 12.
The album was originally scheduled for release last year, but a series of contractual disputes with EMI resulted in the package – which included a 100-page book of photos by the ever-awesome Lynch, who also sings on a couple of songs – being released with no music included. Here’s our track-by-track guide to a record that was one of 2009’s best illicit releases, and promises to be one of 2010’s best as well:
Revenge – feat. Wayne Coyne
Widescreen, atmospheric opener, kinda reminiscent of In Rainbows-era Radiohead. The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne handles vocals, and Danger Mouse told The Guardian this week that working with Coyne “took [the song] somewhere bigger and darker than we had imagined”; it certainly sounds both big and dark.
Just War – feat. Gruff Rhys
Apparently the first song that Linkous and Danger Mouse worked on together. The mellow mood and decidedly hummable melody both recall Rhys’ band Super Furry Animals, even though the words he’s singing depict a shattered post-apocalyptic landscape and carry a strong anti-war message.
Jaykub – feat. Jason Lytle
Another song that could quite easily belong to the vocalist’s original project. The strangely evocative mixture of sci-fi production and laid-back country flavours is something that Grandaddy made into an artform over the course of four sparkling albums, as is the abiding melancholy that permeates the story of the song’s protagonist (“Up on the podium, you’re handsome and strong/Then the alarm goes off and you’re a sad man in a song”).
Little Girl – feat. Julian Casablancas
“I’m just a simple guy who talks when you put a microphone in front of him,” confesses Julian Casablancas over sharp arpeggiated guitar, and he excels himself here, recounting the tale of a “tortured little girl, showing them what love is all about”. In an ideal world, this’d be a hugely successful single.
Angel’s Harp – feat. Black Francis
Starts with fractured, squelching breakbeats that pave the way for a squall of guitars and Francis’ unmistakeable howl. The lyrics recall the vivid and occasionally disturbing imagery of Francis’ years with the Pixies – “When I saw your eyes so brown/I pulled them, boy… and cut you down”. He’s a scary man.
Pain – feat. Iggy Pop
Iggy’s in fine form here, amusingly world-weary and cynical. He spends the first verse moaning about a “headache in my ageing skull”, before noting acerbically that “good karma won’t get you anywhere/Look at Jesus and his hair”. Also features a couple of coruscating Linkous guitar solos.
Star Eyes (I Can Catch It) – feat. David Lynch
The first of Lynch’s two vocal contributions to the album is beautiful, all lush strings and abstract but curiously evocative lyrics that capture the album’s mood perfectly (“Sun/Shine/Be/Mine/Come/Back/I can’t catch it…”) He can really sing, too. It’s all a world away from Gordon Cole.
Everytime I’m With You – feat. Jason Lytle
Lytle’s a strange choice to lend his vocals to this tale of a doomed alcoholic relationship, but it works. As with ‘Jaykub’, the mood is melancholy and country-inflected, and the words are plaintive and sad (“Every time I’m with you/I’m fucked up and you are too”).
Insane Lullaby – feat. James Mercer
An appropriate title for a song that combines a frenetic backdrop of sampled and looped noise with a music box melody. As with most of the songs on the record, the lyrical mood is reflective and sad, but the melody seems to carry a counter-message of hope and rebirth.
Daddy’s Gone – feat. Nina Persson
The first of two consecutive tracks featuring Cardigans singer Nina Persson. This one’s the weaker of the two, a foot-tappin’ bar-room stomp that ventures too far into country territory for its own good. The album’s weakest track.
The Man Who Played God – feat. Nina Persson
Persson’s vocals are better utilised here, set over a simple acoustic guitar and narrating lyrics that portray another introverted protagonist, this one a sad loner who’s rearranging the world outside in his head (conceptually, it’s kinda similar to REM’s ‘World Leader Pretend’).
Grim Augury – feat. Vic Chestnutt
Honestly, this makes for difficult listening, considering that two of the three people who contributed to it have since committed suicide. The song itself is grim alright, a blood-drenched Grapes of Wrath-esque nightmare of home birth and family trauma. It’s compelling and decidedly uncomfortable – arguably the best song here, and certainly the most affecting.
Dark Night of the Soul – feat. David Lynch
Lynch returns to sing on the title track, which is a fitting conclusion to a fantastic record. Danger Mouse’s production makes the song sound like it’s some sort of recently-unearthed turn-of-the-century recording, all static and echoing piano that fades to silence as Lynch leaves us with the album’s final words: “It’s a dark dream word / Dark night of the soul…”