Mark Lanegan / Mark Lanegan Band

Somebody's Knocking

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With his deep, rough-hewn voice and easy confidence with lyrics about bad behavior and lives gone wrong, Mark Lanegan doesn't seem like the kind of guy you would invite to your next party, unless you wanted to bum out uninvited guests. Which is why 2019's Somebody's Knocking is something of a surprise coming from Lanegan; thematically, it's no cheerier than most of his work, but most of the time it has a good beat and you can dance to it, even if the folks on the dancefloor aren't laughing a lot. Like most of his releases credited to the Mark Lanegan Band, Somebody's Knocking finds him collaborating with Alain Johannes and Rob Marshall, who play most of the instruments -- Johannes is also credited as producer -- and this time Lanegan's unlikely fascination with electronics and dance music dominates the set. Clean keyboard lines and the steady pulse of programmed percussion are the foundation of "Dark Disco Jag," "Penthouse High," and "War Horse," even as Lanegan's singing reflects his raw and blues-infused vocal trademark. And while "Disbelief Suspension," "Night Flight to Kabul," and "Stitch It Up" sound bigger, harder, and more rock-oriented, they're all designed around grooves that would make any misanthrope worth their salt shake their money maker, with "Little Nero" on hand as the slow dance for late in the evening. More than a few of Lanegan's longtime fans will be puzzled by his transformation into the party animal of the dark side, but his vocals are typically strong, and he sounds fully engaged with the material, happy to be visiting the VIP section of the Place Where Nothing Living Goes, and he's excited and challenged in a way he's hasn't sounded in a while. You won't want to spike the punch too much if Lanegan comes to your next dance party, but Somebody's Knocking shows he most definitely knows how to have a good time in his own way.

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