Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not So Dark Night of the Soul

By Evan Rytlewski
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Like so many other Danger Mouse albums, Dark Night of the Soul arrives with a back story that's nearly as interesting than the music. Danger Mouse’s collaboration with Sparklehorse and director David Lynch was marketed like a blockbuster movie, with mysterious, film-noir-inspired posters playing up Lynch’s involvement in the project and flaunting its roster: The Flaming Lips, James Mercer, Suzanne Vega, Julian Casablancas, Iggy Pop and Frank Black, among others. This wouldn’t be just an album, it would be a multi-media event, a CD packaged with a 100 page book of photos and visuals by Lynch.

That was the goal, at least, but things don’t always work out as planned. When Dark Night of the Soul is released—if, indeed, it ever is—it’ll be a single-media affair. The book will still be there, but the music won’t, thanks to a legal tangle with EMI records. The album will be replaced with a blank CD-R and a disclaimer: “For legal reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.” The obvious insinuation is that consumers can easily illegally download the album online.

It's barely worth the effort of downloading. For an album meant to be cased in Lynchian bleakness, Dark Night of the Soul is cloyingly sunny. The Flaming Lips launch the album with a typical soul-searcher following the “Do You Realize??” recipe of one part existentialism to three parts sugar and pomp. Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle contributes a pair of non-starters, while The Shins’ Mercer channels his jingle from the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack—it’s effortlessly tuneful, but it’s not exactly the type of song expected from a David Lynch project titled Dark Night of the Soul. Only Frank Black and Iggy Pop lend a bit of rock ’n’ seediness to the record, but their respective songs are awful.

If only David Lynch, a seasoned songwriter and sure-fire muse, had been as hands on with the music as he was the visuals. He contributes just two songs: the hazy, bittersweet Lady in the Radiator update “Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It)” and the gloriously unsettling title track, a bluesy, old-time throwback that's fit to soundtrack Lynch’s most horrifying films. More of this and less of the Grandaddy guy would have been nice.  

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