It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land
John Metzger's #16 album for 2007
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by John Metzger
Mon October 22, 2007, 05:45 AM CDT
Even when he was fronting Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan sang with more than a hint of torment. Since recovering from his addiction to heroin and crack cocaine, however, he has discovered a more deeply resonant method of vocalizing that is downright creepy. Continuing a string of guest appearances that has included stints with Isobel Campbell and The Twilight Singers, Lanegan lent his voice to eight of the 11 tracks on Soulsaversí latest effort Itís Not How Far You Fall, Itís the Way You Land. Once again, he drew from his own experiences and parlayed his personal anguish into a gut-wrenching performance. Unlike Ballad of the Broken Seas, his collaboration with Campbell, however, there is no innocence to counter his darkened moods. Instead, Lanegan sounds not just downtrodden and weary but also, fittingly enough, like a soul who desperately needs to be saved.
Considering how integral he is to the set, it initially might seem strange that Laneganís name doesnít adorn the cover of Itís Not How Far You Fall, Itís the Way You Land. Then again he is, at least for one album, as much a part of Soulsavers as founding members Ian Glover and Rich Machin. The combination is a perfect one, too, as Glover and Machin concoct sonic landscapes that magnify Laneganís despondent gestures. Here, the darkness lies not at the edge of town, but rather at its heart. Although the instrumental cuts, such as Ask the Dust and Arizona Baby, offer moments of respite by allowing a little light to filter through the cracks of the dark, emotional cavern in which Lanegan resides, the calm sensations of floating that they conjure inevitably are pierced by distorted guitar tones and uneasy orchestrations.
Much as its title suggests, Itís Not How Far You Fall, Itís the Way You Land is as obsessed with addiction and recovery as it is with sin and redemption. Not only is its tale all about finding a graceful exit from the most dramatic of leaps into the abyss, but it also traces Laneganís own struggle to put his life in order. Although its touchstones ó which include everyone from Lou Reed to Tom Waits, Nick Cave to Pink Floyd, and Jim Morrison to David Bowie ó are familiar, the final product is still disorienting, and when it is enveloped by the shadowy textures supplied by Soulsavers, Laneganís devilish howl frequently sounds like the anti-Bono.
Broken, battered, and bloodied, Lanegan makes a plea for forgiveness on the opening cut Revival, and the gospel-imbued backing vocals tauntingly hover above the flames that surround his weary body. Despite the fact that this same trick is redeployed throughout the rest of Itís Not How Far You Fall, Itís the Way You Land, these concepts are examined and reexamined from an array of angles, as if to draw the listener inside Laneganís personal purgatory. Neil Youngís rendition of Through the Sails was a sad, reflective, and sober glimpse in the rearview mirror of troubles that had past. In contrast, Soulsaversí interpretation of the tune sounds positively claustrophobic. Delivered with assistance from Will Oldham, it is a cry for help that emanates from the bottom of the worst of drug dependencies. There is no wind; there is no relief. There is only futility and resignation. Similarly, Laneganís Kingdoms of Rain is reworked into a crawling, funereal death march, while the Rolling Stonesí No Expectations is a ghostly clatter of shattered hopes and shredded dreams.
Granted, Itís Not How Far You Fall, Itís the Way You Land is not for everyone. It is uncompromising and relentless, unsettling and eerie. Those who are drawn to gothic horror, however, will find Soulsaversí latest effort to be an intoxicating elixir that never wavers in its attempts to find beauty in the blackness of night or, for that matter, salvation at any cost.
It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box