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Hawk
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Hawk
Released 24 August 2010
Producer Isobel Campbell
Label V2 Records
Length 47:55
Genre Indie, alternative
Website isobelcampbell.com
marklanegan.com
49

The Bacon Factor- a phenomenon in the film industry that connects contemporary actors to Kevin Bacon usually within two degrees of separation. The Lanegan Factor- the musical equivalent that connects any artist worth a damn to Mark Lanegan. Ok, I made the second one up, but it doesn’t take away from the connections this man has. Throughout his career he has worked with artists as diverse as Soulsavers, PJ Harvey, Queens of The Stone Age, Kurt Cobain and U.N.K.L.E. With the requisite two degrees of separation you bring in even more outlandish artists like The Afghan Whigs, Guns N' Roses, Jane’s Addiction and Ween (and that is just a drop in the ocean). Lanegan is a man who keeps himself busy with increasingly interesting projects, one of the more intriguing collaborations to date has been with Isobel Campbell (formerly of Belle & Sebastian), a partnership that began in 2004 and yielded the Mercury Prize nominated Ballad of the Broken Seas, it’s follow up Sunday at Devil Dirt and now the third instalment; Hawk.

The selling point has always been the combination of Campbell’s sweet angelic tones with Lanegan’s gruff whiskey-soaked growls, it’s a mixture that carried the weaker songs on Sunday at Devil Dirt but with Hawk, the surprise factor is no longer there. It still sounds good but it no longer papers up the cracks of less than impressive song writing.

Hawk begins in typically understated fashion with 'We Die and See Beauty Reign', a song that evokes boredom more so than the poignancy that was intended. Things begin to pick up with the next two tracks 'You Won’t Let Me Down Again' and 'Snake Song', with Lanegan taking the lead and Campbell providing her usual breathy backing vocals. This is followed by the albums high point; 'Come Undone' with its dramatic strings and bouncy piano that brings to mind the irresistible beat of Sam Brown’s 'Stop' (a reference I can thank my older sister for).

Things take a rather bizarre twist from here with 'No Place to Fall', the first of two songs featuring Willy Mason on lead vocals. It seems a bit of a waste to have a guest vocalist on an album that’s supposed to be showcasing both Lanegan and Campbell’s talents. In fact, of the thirteen songs on the album, Lanegan and Campbell only appear together on eight tracks, a pretty poor showing given their equal billing. I felt short changed, what starts out as promising (if a little uninspired), ends in album filler, with three talented artists taking turns singing bland songs.

The sad fact is this partnership may have peaked with their debut and trying to recapture the same vibe that made Ballad of the Broken Seas so enjoyable has proved to be a tough task. There are a few songs here that are worth hearing but nothing reaches the heady heights of 'Deus Ibi Est' or 'Honey Child What Can I Do?' and this is the standard Hawk should be measured against. Perhaps there still is mileage left in this partnership, but a severe strategy rethink is required to put a stop to the noticeable decline.

- Brian Kinsella