Album: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Hawk (V2 / Co-Operative)
He growls, she coos: alt-rock's oddest couple strike again
On the face of it, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan hail from opposite ends of the alt-rock spectrum, the former having made her name with the twee indie-folk of Belle & Sebastian, the latter with the hoary, hairy grunge of Screaming Trees.
You wouldn't expect the woman who sang "Lazy Line Painter Jane" and the man who growled "Nearly Lost You" to have much in common. And yet, Hawk is their third collaborative album, so something about this Scottish-American partnership must work for the respective parties.
The template, of course, is the male-female tradition established by Nancy & Lee, Serge & Brigitte, even Cave & Kylie. The balance of power, however, is skewed one way. Just as he was outshone in the Soulsavers project by the brilliance of Greg Dulli, here Lanegan exists mainly to provide a gritty, grainy foundation for Campbell's sugary coos and whispers. Perhaps Lanegan is music's Emile Heskey: in the same way that other strikers insist that Heskey brings out the best in their game, to the bafflement of spectators, perhaps Lanegan somehow complements and cultivates whatever is latently great in whoever he is working with.
That said, his open-hearted vocals on "No Place to Fall" reverse those roles, with Campbell merely providing pretty-but-superfluous window-dressing, and Lanegan's Dylanesque drawl on the gospel-flavoured "Lately" would have the Dude in The Big Lebowski nodding with approval.
The duo are not above cliché – "Sunrise" features a hackneyed "whisper in my ear/ words I long to hear" rhyme – but they concoct a certain chemistry of which "To Hell and Back Again" is probably the loveliest moment. Their favoured genre is dusty desert blues, all twangs, echoes and bottleneck bends, but despite the aura of Americana, the reference points are often British: Lanegan sings of travelling to "King's Cross to explain the situation" on "Time of the Season" in a song that, sadly, isn't a cover of the Zombies' bewitching classic.
There's also brassy blues and soul: "Come Undone" is so blatantly based on "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" that if James Brown doesn't get a credit, they're lucky he's not around to demand payback.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III (15)
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.