Dynamic duo doesn’t deliver
Duke Garwood and Mark Lanegan are two names that no one ever expected to be seen together. Lanegan grew up in Seattle at the height of the grunge era and became known as the gravelly-voiced lead singer of the Screaming Trees. After that band broke up, he joined Queens of The Stone Age for a while. During his time with them, he began a relatively low-key solo career, which has now produced ten studio albums and a smorgasbord of other collaborative projects. Garwood, on the other hand, was born and raised in England and carved out a successful solo career of his own as a blues-influenced multi-instrumentalist.
These two first crossed paths in 2013, and the result was a dynamic creative spirit (Lanegan referred to it as one of the best creative experiences of his life) and an album titled Black Pudding. They stayed together after that, as Garwood opened for Lanegan’s 2017 tour and played as a sideman in his band. Now in 2018, the two have teamed up for another collab, titled With Animals.
Unfortunately for the two of them, With Animals is frankly a dud. Usually one expects albums to be largely positive, with a few small missteps, but this situation is the exact opposite. The album consists of twelve tracks, and all of them are empty vamps over which Lanegan drowns his voice in reverb and mutters about nothing in particular. Garwood brings in the occasional guitar fill, but his contributions are sparse. The only memorable tracks are the moody and finger-picked “Spaceman” and two pretty acoustic ballads, “Desert Song” and “Upon Doing Something Wrong.”
The most disappointing thing about With Animals is the fact that it’s a massive step backward. Black Pudding was a wonderfully weird creation filled with tidbits of several genres, but the follow-up is comparatively bland and uninspiring. Lanegan and Garwood are both incredibly talented individuals, but With Animals wouldn’t suggest it. Ultimately, it’s just incredibly surprising that two brilliant artists with a history of successful collaboration didn’t come up with something better. All songwriters go through good and bad stretches creatively, so let’s hope the next time they choose to put a record out it results in a better one.