Dark Night of the Soul: The Album EMI Doesn’t Want You to Hear

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I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not fond of EMI’s recent business strategies, which seem to be calculated to irritate the music-buying public. You know, the very people they should be trying with all their might to win back in this age of the digital downloading and whatnot. Certainly, EMI is making a more compelling case that stupidity (as opposed to piracy) is what’s really killing the music industry. And while we’re on that cheery subject, you know what I’ve never heard? I’ve never heard a single musician that I care about or respect say that they’ll stop making music if the kids don’t knock off all the downloading. Billy Corgan can testify to Congress all he wants about needing to get paid, but let’s face it: if I thought downloading Billy Corgan’s shit would make him stop producing music and go get a job at  Arby’s, I’d be pirating that shit on a 24/7 basis.

One of the things I was bitching about (and will continue to bitch about at every opportunity. If I could get a meeting with the assholes in charge at EMI, I’d say all this & more to their doughy fucking faces) was EMI’s refusal to release Dark Night of the Soul, an album-length collaboration between Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) and Danger Mouse (you know, the guy who is half of Gnarls Barkley; the guy who did the fucking Grey Album; the guy who breathed new life into the Black Keys last year… that guy) meant to accompany a book of visual goodies from none other than David Lynch. I should mention that Dark Night of the Soul features guest performances from such indie luminaries as Wayne Coyne, Julian Casablancas, Jason Lytle, Frank Black, and Iggy Fucking Pop. In other words, this album is full on, mind-blowing indie bait. This thing should’ve sold a billion copies for its list of contributors alone. But it was not to be; Danger Mouse let the good folks at NPR stream the album as an exclusive “First Listen” and the babies at EMI pissed their wrinkle-free khakis, despite the fact that what NPR and Danger Mouse were doing was essentially getting the indie kids (myself included) to respond to the album in a way that can only be described as Pavlovian. As of this writing, Dark Night of the Soul still does not have a release date, and it looks like EMI has no intention of releasing it.

Which is too bad, because it turns out that Dark Night of the Soul is worth every bit of the hype it has received and then some. It’s a moody, funky, grumpy, gorgeous record. I mean, this album is so awesome that it strikes me as statistically impossible that Tom Waits didn’t have some hand in it. Wayne Coyne is the first guest to appear, opening the album with “Revenge”, a song that admittedly sounds like it could be a Flaming Lips tune, but if that’s the worst thing someone can say about your song, what they’re really saying is, “Goddamn, that song is really awesome.”

The album has a freaky, psychedelic, middle-of-the-night feel to it that fans of Sparklehorse will recognize from 2006’s Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, which also featured some production from Danger Mouse, a guy I can’t stop praising for his ability to hear exactly how a song needs to sound and making it sound that way. So Dark Night of the Soul would have been musically worthwhile even without the high-profile collaborations, but having Iggy Pop shout, “et cetera, I quit,” on your album (as he does on the awesome “Pain” – if this is what Iggy’s new record sounds like, sign me up) is certainly an entertaining bonus.

I could go on and on about each track’s individual loveliness, but that’s hardly the issue anymore. It’s a great album, and I’d tell you to run right out and get it, but you can’t because EMI is dumb. The book is still for sale and it comes with a blank CD. So maybe you should go download the sucker and burn it to disc and then, if you ever meet Mark Linkous and/or Danger Mouse, buy them a round of their favorite beverage as a way of saying thanks. Although it’s not like EMI has put the lid on every opportunity you have to hear Dark Night of the Soul; search any torrent engine and you’ll find it (EMI is probably too busy keeping their music out of independent record stores to sue you anyway. Hell, given all the ways they’re finding to not sell music, they’ll probably be handing out pink slips to their legal department in a matter of days). Or, if you want to hear it completely legally and for free, the damn thing is still available here at the NPR website. That’s right – EMI put the brakes on the only way they have to make money off of Dark Night of the Soul without ever stopping NPR from basically giving it away. So either EMI has been infiltrated by anti-industry moles who are tearing it apart from the inside or it is entirely staffed by people who are so stupid that any just society would prohibit them from breeding.

In any case, Dark Night of the Soul is a pretty great album and, since there are so many ways to hear it without giving EMI a dime, you really can’t afford not to listen to it.

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