A vague dispute between Danger Mouse and EMI sabotaged a timely release of this last year, and that was followed by the mega-bummer suicides of both Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous and key collaborator Vic Chesnutt last winter. Finally on sale now, the record — a song-by-song collaboration of the two principals with Chesnutt, David Lynch, Iggy Pop, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, Suzanne Vega, and more — deserves a second listen from anyone who snuck a peek on last year's leak.
Every song here showcases Linkus's gift for pinpointing little benchmarks in hopelessness with brittle gestures of melody and ambiance. It's also another reminder of Danger Mouse's ability to whittle lean pop shivs from gnarly splinters — like the antler-handled knife used in an abortion in Chesnutt's grimacing "Grain Auger." The album descends a Lynchian path into surrealism, the last few songs sunk in crackling vinyl and Twin Peaks tremolo guitar.
The vocal turns from James Mercer and Julian Casablancas could be toss-offs from 2002, but there's not much else to scoff at. Opener "Revenge," where Wayne Coyne vamps like Phil Collins on "In the Air Tonight," dives the deepest, its skeletal instrumentation glowing like a dim lantern to guide us through an emotional disaster zone. Given Danger Mouse's fruitful extended partnerships — Gnarls Barkley, DangerDoom — it's a shame this is all he gets with Linkous and Chesnutt.