When Dark Night of the Soul was stuck in limbo, bogarted by a record label that threatened never to release it, Dangermouse, Sparklehorse (aka Mark Linkous) and David Lynch encouraged people to buy their specially packaged CD-R and “use it as you will”. While it was a brilliant piece of guerrilla marketing that ensured one way or another this magnificent album could still be heard, its lack of official release was none the less a tragedy. And now, months later, the album has finally been given a proper release, but it will still never be separated from that word.
In fact, of all the tragedies surrounding the passing of both Mark Linkous and Dark Night of the Soul Contributor Vic Chesnutt, one of the greatest is that they will never be able to work with Dangermouse again; such is the strength of this album. Of course, you could cynically put it down to the cavalcade of contributing talent (which includes Julian Casablancas, Iggy Pop, Black Francis, James Mercer and Wayne Coyne), but Dark Night of the Soul achieves two very important things. The first is that it manages to remain a cohesive piece of work rather than sound like a collection of individual songs with different singers. The other is that a lot of this material is stronger than anything those singers have produced either solo or with their respective bands in years.
The most obvious of which is Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle. While that band certainly had its moments, Lytle sounds effortlessly at home on both the lilting ‘Jaykub’ and the Eastern European infused ‘Everytime I’m With You’. It’s almost like welcoming back an old friend that you forgot you enjoyed spending time with. The feeling carries on via ‘Revenge’, which features Wayne Coyne and then ‘Just War’ with Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys. The melodies transition into each other beautifully yet still sound like they are supposed to be navigated by different vocalists.
Both Iggy Pop and Black Francis take things in a more abrasive direction on ‘Angel’s Harp’ and ‘Pain’ respectively, and while it might have been nice to hear them continuing the unabashed sentimentality of the previous tracks, they instead do what they were born to do. It’s slightly at odds with the rest of the album, but also saves the listener from becoming lost within its own navel-gazing.
Following a surprisingly striking contribution from David Lynch on ‘Star Eyes (I Can’t Catch It), Dark Night of the Soul carries on as it began; an ever evolving and fluctuating work of beauty, with Linkous’ ‘Daddy’s Gone’ easily stealing the second half of the album, if not standing out as the album highlight.
But really, this is an album of highlights; a rare and unexpected treat that was brilliant before and should be treasured now, because it will never be repeated.