An album worthy to soundtrack a vintage cowboy flick. Danger Mouse has created a record that is mostly good, at times bad but certainly not ugly.
It came to public attention last autumn that Danger Mouse has spent the past five years working with the Italian composer Daniele Luppi on a record, not only inspired by Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s, but featuring musicians that have played on the scores of some of the most popular films of this genre. Instead of crafting an album of rolling horns and galloping drums, the iconic producer offers a much more laid back affair. If 2009’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ was Danger Mouse’s step into the nocturnal side of psychedelia, this is the sun kissed flipside. Instrumentals like ‘Roman Blue’ and album opener ‘Theme of Rome’ float along blissfully, giving new meaning to the phrase high plain drifter. While the album’s “Interludes” (‘Morning Fog’, ‘Her Hollow Ways’ and ‘The World’) all contain twinkling xylophones that twirl like a ballerina on the top of a musical box. This record would better serve as accompanying a laze beside a cactus plant, rather than soundtrack a raucous bar room brawl.
It is indeed difficult not to notice the cinematic quality of ‘Rome’. Our leading man, is not a gravelly voice in the vein of Clint Eastwood, but the soft croons of White Stripes man, Jack White. By no means a “man with no name”, White has been involved in a string of projects since he found fame with the now defunct-garage rockers. Fans hoping to hear echoes of the seminal band in this record will be disappointed. Instead, White’s appearance is rather aptly, akin to his previous venture into the world of film. His soulful vocals are more comparable to his collaboration with Alicia Keys (their track ‘Another Way to Die’ was the theme to the last 007 Movie ‘Quantum of Solace)
Another high profile musician who appears on ‘Rome’ is Norah Jones. Her presence however is outshone by White, the first voice on the record (sharing vocals with Danger Mouse himself on the mournful ‘The Rose with a Broken Neck’) and the last, as he sings on closing track ‘The World’. The other number White features on is the venomous, ‘Two Against One’, which along with Norah Jones’ ‘Black’, can already be heard on Youtube. It’s the former however, which plays the most likely single and standout track. Jack sounds like a true lone ranger when he sings ‘Make no mistake, I do nothing for free, I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me’ before boasting the catchiest chorus of the album. Norah’s hushed voice is certainly at home on this chilled out foray. Unfortunately it does become tiresome, meaning the record lacks the vibrancy found in ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’ which had a variety of compelling musicians (Iggy Pop, Julian Casablancas, Gruff Rhys, Wayne Coyne to mention a few.) Similarly, this tinge of repetition is found in the album’s heavy reliance on instrumentals. These songs, though majestic, are occasionally samey. There are exceptions of course, ‘The Gambling Priest’ and its reverby guitar coils, rise above the predictable string sections which plague some of the other tracks. While ‘The Matador Has Fallen’ is refreshingly fun, sounding like The Doors playing an upbeat ‘House of the Rising Sun’. On the whole, the instrumentals mean the music run the risk of fading into the background. Of course, this cinematic trait was needed to establish the ‘Spaghetti Western’ concept which runs through out. The fact ‘Rome’ exists without an accompanying film for it to score, makes it seem destined to become a great lost album rather than a bona fide classic.
Key tracks- ‘Two Against One’, ‘The Gambling Priest’ ‘The Rose with a Broken Neck’