Danger Mouse may have broken into the music game by using his production talent for the good of hip hop, but recent history tells listeners his skills are better used in the rock genre. His latest in a long line of collaboration albums, of which has spanned from The Black Keys to Cee Lo Green to Beck, is a tag team with veteran rock group Sparklehorse. While the album, titled Dark Night of the Soul, is billed as a collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse, the latter’s fingerprints are all over the production while both artists influences can be seen in the writing.
Dark Night of the Soul is a very interesting album for many different reasons. One of which is the eerie vibe that creeps over the audience as it is taken in. The lyrics of the album seem to be very dark and thought provoking. This eerie feeling is escalated because Sparklehorse front-man Mark Linkous committed suicide just three months before its release. Linkous’ personal struggles with self-esteem and insecurity can be seen littered throughout the album. The song “Jaykub” seems to be about someone who puts on the happy face and goes about his daily business in the spotlight, but when alone remembers who he is and how little everything else means if he is unable to come to terms with the personal world crumbling around him. “Revenge” is another titled that is full of anger and hate, a byproduct of the self-loathing contained in “Jaykub.” Dark Night of the Soul is a flawless title for an album and truly reflects what it must be like to sit alone and constantly battle the demons that ultimately lead to the act of suicide.
While the writing comes from a dark place within, Danger Mouse found a way to produce an incredible album. He enlisted some of indie rock’s greatest artists to capture the sentiment found in Linkous’ writing. Julian Casablancas, of Strokes fame, appears for a song that one would expect him to be involved in. His silky smooth vocals on “Little Girl” accompany the oh-so-familiar snare drum that commanded his entire Phrazes for the Young album. “Little Girl” is an eclectic track that Danger Mouse mixed with perfection. Linkous’ lyrics reflect his feelings of confusion and love. Casablancas captures the frantic and confusing nature of the writing by creating a sound that his both upbeat, reflecting the confusion as well as happiness involved in love, and a haunting echo and distortion which added to the anger and sorrow involved in Linkous’ writing.
Ageless psychedelic rockers The Flaming Lips make an appearance on the album as well. Their song “Revenge” could very possibly be the most poignant of the entire album. Linkous once again paints a picture of heartbreak and sadness. It seems to reflect his struggle to cope with everything, namely those who he feels have been a burden on him. Danger Mouse brought in the perfect group to tackle the track in The Flaming Lips. Lead vocalist Wayne Coyne delivers his signature soft vocals that create a feeling of depression all around him.
The album is laced with self-pity, disgust, confusion, love lost, etc. but it is amazingly well done. The group that came together for this project seems as if they were the only ones that could have been up to the task. With other songs featuring Iggy Pop, David Lynch, and Black Francis (Roxy Music) the cast features some of the more emotionally strong entertainers in rock n’ roll. Audiences will be captivated by the power of this album both lyrically and musically. The haunting last days of Mark Linkous will forever be enshrined in the contents of this album as told by his very own colleagues.
By Mitch Inkrott