Musical history is littered with anomalous musical pairings. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan always appeared one such pairing – she the ethereal siren who featured in Scottish folksters Belle and Sebastian and he the world weary troubadour of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age repute. Traditionally the male is the dominant party, the aggressor, while the female plays the part of his muse but this traditional delineation is inverted by their partnership; in many of their narratives Lanegan plays a tormented soul, tortured and led on by Campbell in a psychological war of the sexes. The songs are written primarily by Campbell, with Lanegan’s baritone taking lead vocal. With such a pairing it is hard to escape an air of contrivance, yet the juxtaposition between them has always been arresting. The tracks on their latest release Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart were recorded at the same time as their latest album Sunday at Devil Dirt, but this EP reveals itself to be more a companion piece than craven cash in.
Opener and title track “Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart” is the only song to be taken from this year’s earlier long player and it is an affecting acoustic lullaby sung by a lachrymose Lanegan. The easy melodicism of “Fight Fire with Fire” employs barroom piano and brushed drums beneath Lanegan’s Waits’ like croon, while the lyrics deal with the differences between two lovers. He opens by proclaiming “Wild is the night that keeps me from you” but goes on to say “When I see grey, I know you see black, I dig the Stones you dig Sheer Heart Attack”. Campbell’s delicate vocals wash over Lanegan’s leathery tones, intertwining and caressing them. The lamentation of “Rambling Rose” showcases their fascination with Americana and the West, the rolling backdrop propelling the song down a dusty Lost Highway. There are undercurrents of unresolved tension between the two singers, and this interplay between them remains one of their key potencies. Closing song “Hang On” features Campbell alone, and shorn of Lanegan’s mournful baritone the track feels aimless while instrumental “Violin Tango” is neither long enough nor developed enough musically to fully engage the listener.
Lacking the darker themes of their Mercury nominated debut or the seedy motel feel of their sophomore album, this EP suffers from a somewhat staid approach to the rootsy passages. Their evocation of a lovelorn past comes across as artifice, and at times on this EP they feel constricted and strangely joyless. The intimacy of their arrangements and the combinations of their vocals mark out their best songs, but these highpoints are not as evident on this release.
This article was originally produced for http://www.clickmusic.com/. To read the music review of Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan on the site, please click on the article title.