» LATEST FEATURES

LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Ballad Of The Broken Seas
V2

Rating: 9/10 ?


February 9, 2006
Like any great actor, Mark Lanegan has incredible range. With that familiar weather-beaten voice of his, he can play the role of a sad, broken-down drunk " ... drowning in whiskey and beer" or a suicidal lover or a scared soldier getting ready to go off to battle or a prodigal husband who can't deny his wandering ways. Lanegan, the former Screaming Trees leader and occasional Queens Of The Stone Age collaborator, does justice to them all on Ballad Of The Broken Seas, lending measured pathos and pained expression to lyrics written from the male perspective by a woman, Isobel Campbell. If they gave Oscars to grizzled old grunge singers, Lanegan would have a mantel full of them, and he may have saved his best performance for this album.

Written almost entirely by Campbell, save for Lanegan's "Revolver," the devilishly wicked cover of Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man" and the lovely instrumental "It's Hard To Kill A Bad Thing," Ballad Of The Broken Seas is the album Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood never made. A dreamy, slightly hallucinogenic record, Ballad Of The Broken Seas is enveloped in misty traditional English folk that clouds the desert sunset hues emanating from psychedelic country arrangements influenced by peyote, Graham Parsons and Jimmy Webb. Songs such as "Saturday's Gone" and "Revolver," with its ghost town vibe, have a kind of haunted, rustic elegance to them, with the sweeping strings of the latter and the watery vibraphones of the former adding class to dusty acoustic guitar melodies and rattlesnake percussion. It's as if Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" got stoned one night, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in a Scottish moor.

It'd make a great story if Isobel and Lanegan met that way, but they didn't. What happened was Campbell needed a deeper voice for a song she had written for her 2004 EP, Time Is Just The Same. Her boyfriend of the time played one of Lanegan's solo records for her and she was convinced Lanegan was right for the part. As it turned out, their partnership, thankfully, didn't end there as they made plans for a more extensive project. An EP called Ramblin' Man preceeded Ballad Of The Broken Seas and all the promise of that teaser is fulfilled in the full-length, partly because the duets between Campbell and Lanegan are the stuff of great drama. At times, they seemed engaged in sharp, pointed dialogue, like in "Ramblin' Man," where Campbell answers Lanegan's bemused whistle and devil-may-care reading of Williams' lyrics with a strong, provocative female counterpoint couched in a sexy whisper. The noir-ish instrumentation - see the steely, tastefully played solo of guitarist Jim McCullough - and cracking whip bring to life the rollicking atmosphere of a Wild West saloon in a lawless town. Even more cinematic is "The False Husband," with Lanegan's murderous vocals asking, "Where have you been my darling?/Where have you been my friend?" as menacing Spaghetti Western-style guitar gets swept away by hot winds of violin and cello. In response, Campbell, sweet and demure, recounts Lanegan's sins from inside a locked safe house.

Initially, what sells you on the Campbell-Lanegan collaboration is the amazing contrast of their voices, the vaporous softness of Campbell's ethereal wail rubbing against Lanegan's rough five o'clock stubble. Going beyond that, there's a whole lot more to fall head over heels for, from the universal themes of doomed romance, emotional treason, fear, and painful loss in Campbell's rich stories to the depth and fullness of her arrangements. There's the stirring acoustic guitar of "Deus Ibi Est," with Lanegan giving a soldier's meditation of the folly of war. "Black Mountain" follows with a finely spun web of folk melancholy, woven with spindly acoustic guitar, nervy violin, heaving cello and Campbell's vocal filligree. The best coupling, however, lies with the aching, full-bodied guitar textures and clip-clop percussion of McCullough's composition "It's Hard To Kill A Bad Thing" and the light-hearted gallop of "Honey Child What Can I Do," with a melody so golden it seems to shine through the jewel box that contains Ballad Of The Broken Seas.

This is proof that Campbell made the right decision in leaving Belle And Sebastian. Up till now, she's had a solid, acclaimed solo career, but she hadn't quite broken the twee-pop ties that binded her to her past. Even Amorino's chamber-pop musings seem limited by comparison to the scope of Ballad Of The Broken Seas' wide-screen ambitions. Here, Campbell has composed not only an epic Ennio Morricone-style soundtrack but with that huge instrumental canvas, she's also provided layers of well-written dialogue, compelling plot lines, dazzling scenary and vividly drawn vignettes to make a truly cinematic experience out of what at first glance seems like a simple record. Campbell has another album called Milk White Sheets due out sometime later this year. Does she have it in her to make two masterpieces in one year? Only time will tell. As for me, I'll be waiting for Campbell and Lanegan to make a sequel to Ballad Of The Broken Seas.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

» MEDIA DOWNLOADS

» GOT STICKERS?

If you'd like to help spread the word about LAS, or simply want to outfit yourself with some adhesive coolness, our 4" circle LAS stickers are sure to hit the spot, and here is how to get them:

--> Send an with $2 in PayPal funds to cover postage. Don't worry, we'll load you up with enough to cover your town. Then just be patient. They will arrive soon.

» WORLDWIDE DOMINATION

LAS has staff and freelance writers spread across North and South America, Europe, and a few in Southeast Asia as well. As such, we have no central mailing adress for unsolicited promotional material. If you are interested in having your project considered for coverage, please contact us before sending any promotional materials - save yourself time and postage!