Reviews for Soulsavers' Broken

From Filter Mag
First Impressions: Soulsavers, Broken
by Staff | 07.28.2009

Release Date: 8/18


1. The Seventh Proof
2. Death Bells
3. Unbalanced Pieces
4. You’ll Miss Me When I Burn
5. Some Misunderstanding
6. All The Way Down
7. Shadows Fall
8. Can’t Catch The Train
9. Pharoah’s Chariot
10. Praying Ground
11. Rolling Sky
12. Wise Blood
13. By My Side

First Impressions:

- While most of the album relies heavily on the vocals of Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age, Screaming Trees), Broken offers two melancholy instrumentals, “The Seventh Proof” and “Wise Blood” that outline the moody tone of the album.

- Broken features two covers: Will Oldham’s (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) “You Will Miss Me When I Burn” and Gene Clark’s (The Byrds) “Some Misunderstandings.” While both covers are pretty close to the originals, Lanegan’s deep vocals in “You Miss Me When I Burn” sets a more mournful, tragic tone.

- The melody is hypnotizing throughout the album as in the gloomy nostalgic “Can’t Catch The Train,” but the gospel of “All The Way Down” cuts in for a slightly different, slightly uplifting flavor.

- Rosa Agostino (aka Red Ghost) chimes in among all the baritone for the first time in “Praying Ground,” as a refreshing surprise. She joins Lanegan and some funky horns in “Rolling Sky” for a jazzy theatrical worthy duet.

Key Tracks:

“You’ll Miss Me When I Burn,” “All The Way Down,” "Rolling Sky"


Rich Machin and Ian Glover's third album together is worth a listen even if it is just for the Oldham and Clark covers. The album is long and moody but from time to time little surprises come your way; after all, isn't it the little things that count?


While it’s since evolved into a blues-hymnal outfit, Soulsavers began as a different type of musical creature altogether. Initially the project was more of an electronic affair, with Rich Machin partnering with studio engineer Ian Glover for their 2003 debut Tough Guys Don’t Dance. Shifting to an electo-flavored bruised-blues mood four years later for their followup, It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land, the duo enlisted Mark Lanegan (Gutter Twins, QOTSA) as the primary voice of the project, who lent his signature whiskey-ravaged gravel-pit of a voice to eight tracks on the album. It was a smart move on Machin & Glover’s part; the result was a fantastic endeavor that drew fawning praise from press and fans alike.
Lanegan once again returns to the fold for Broken, the band’s third album – and this time he’s bringing some friends. While he takes part in a full ten tracks on the album, he receives extra vocal colors by way of contributions provided by Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce (Pharaoh’s Chariot), Faith No More/Tomahawk/Fantomas frontman Mike Patton (Unbalanced Pieces) and Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers (Death Bells). Additional guests on the album are Richard Hawley (backing vocals on Shadows Fall), Australian newcomer Red Ghost (Rosa Agostino) and studio bassist Martyn LeNoble (Porno for Pyros, Jane’s Addiction).

Broken was recorded in the span of a year, with Machin and Lanegan shuffling between Los Angeles and Rich’s home in the north of England to capture the desired sound. The setting was a bit more secure, as It’s Not How Far You Fall… was funded primarily on Rich’s credit cards, without a record deal or any other financial support in place, but that’s not the only difference.

“Touring has definitely brought the guitars to the front of Broken, and it’s got a more soulful twist, too,” says Machin of Soulsavers’ evolution. “Though it clearly has some very dark overtones, I don’t think it’s quite as dark as the last album… I love all kinds of music, which allows me to open all these doors. There’s nothing better than bringing in great people who inspire, to keep you on top of your game, and to keep things fresh and never boring. That’s the nature of what we’ve set up here.”

Two cinematic instrumentals serve as deliberate testaments to Machin’s film-score aspirations: pensive piano-waltz opener The Seventh Proof and the slow-building, ever-longing Wise Blood. While Soulsavers songs have already been featured on TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, CSI New York and HBO’s In Treatment, Machin hopes to take his music to the big screen – and soon. He enlisted Italian arranger Daniele Luppi to advise on Broken in the hopes of giving the album a cinematic flare. “He brought alive our ideas, which has pushed me harder to try and work a lot more in that film world,” says Machin.

Lanegan’s rough-leather coyote baritone gives the project an air of cool across the vast desert-scape of Broken. His presence diffuses any electro-schtick that would otherwise dilute tracks like Death Bells, and add a depth of near-doom melancholy to nearly everything he touches.

The low-brim, dangling-cigarette meander of Unbalanced Pieces would clash starkly with the funereal hymn of You’ll Miss Me When I Burn if it weren’t for Lanegan’s consistent croon, seeing us through thick and thin or, in this case, life and death. “When you have no one, no one can hurt you,” Mark gently offers, both as a silver lining and a somber realization.

Lanegan’s low-end narrative never digs too deep into the self-pity; he depicts characters accepting their fate, tending the dwindling fire and refusing to turn and run – even in the face of death. Even his quiet whispers of anguish and defeat arrive not as hands-to-the-sky pity parties, but as soft reflections of inevitability. Can’t Catch The Train is a song my Grandfather would’ve loved – gliding strings and soft piano chords under funeral-march vocals that aren’t hard to imagine accompanying the final moments of life.

On Broken, the guitars are more up front, and the soul is on high, but none of this distracts from the overall sense that life is ending. That doesn’t make it dark – these sepulchral proceedings aren’t sad songs, necessarily, so much as reflections of hard-worn memories at the end of a hellishly long journey. Shadows Fall is a delicate hymnal with direction that breaks down to an acoustic strum and doubled vocals dissonantly interweaving and echoing off one another, while All The Way Down features a spiritual, high-soul moment of rare hymnal optimism from Lanegan.

The glorious eight-minute version of Some Misunderstanding, written by original Byrd and Gene Clark for his 1974 album No Other, stands out as a distraction from the record, but it’s so good that forgiveness is in immediate order.

Broken also introduces a new voice, Red Ghost, through an act of sheer determination on her own part. “This young Australian girl from Sydney kept on sending me demos,” Rich recalls, “and she was better than most everything else we’d heard. We traded ideas, and it really gelled.” She adds a gorgeously silken, soothing vocal to the heaven’s-in-sight Praying Ground before confidently soul-volleying with Lanegan on Rolling Sky and closing the album with her third contribution, the breathy, languid By My Side.

Despite it’s pallor at first glance, there’s no self-loathing sense of despair here, but rather a somber reflection of years passed, days lost and moments seized. It’s another beautiful notch in Lanegan’s belt, which stretches across more projects and bands than anyone can keep track of. Arriving with an inevitably penetrating air of reflection, Broken is a reminder that, even in our dying days, the fire still needs tending.

From Times Online:
August 8, 2009
Soulsavers: Broken
Joe Clay

The symbiotic union between Mark Lanegan and the UK production duo Soulsavers is fast becoming one of the most creatively fertile partnerships of the decade. On Broken, Lanegan’s soulful bellow is the dominant force over spiritual, guitar-heavy backing tracks drenched in the 3am LA vibes of the album’s genesis. The majestic gospel rocker, Some Misunderstanding, renders the recent Verve reunion obsolete, and the Will Oldham cover, You Will Miss Me When I Burn, is pure gold.

(V2/Cooperative Music)

From BBC:
The duo’s prospects have brightened, though their sound has not.
Jaime Gill 2009-08-06
When Soulsavers recorded 2007's It's Not How Far You Fall, It's How You Land they were out of contract, scraping by on credit cards and had just begun working with Mark Lanegan; not known for his frivolity. Unsurprisingly, it emerged as dark and depressed. Two years, a major label record deal and mountains of ecstatic reviews later, and the duo's prospects have brightened considerably, though their sound – as their fans will be relieved to hear – has not.

Like its predecessor, Broken fuses delta blues, grizzled gospel and comedown electronica to create an atmosphere that is both grand and bleak. In fact, on initial listens the mood is so downbeat that songs blur oppressively into each other, not helped by a hoary blues vocabulary where blood is always ''cursed'', wounds ''never heal'' and bones are always ''weary.''

Understandably, many will lack the appetite for second helpings. But for those who persevere, there are enough gleams of light poking through the cloud cover, and enough slowly revealed surprises to make the effort worthwhile. So while Death Bells is too dourly self-regarding to truly love, and the long, creaky Gene Clark cover Some Misunderstanding sounds distressingly like Chris Rea, other songs see Soulsavers live up to their considerable reputation.

One is Unbalanced Pieces, where the solemnity of Lanegan's central melody is lifted by a skulking, hypnotic bass and one of the album's few big, hummable choruses. You’ll Miss Me When I Burn is far starker, based around little more than a mournful, circling piano, but is all the more moving for its simplicity.

Unusually, the album saves its best surprises for the end, when Red Ghost makes a late, strangely uplifting appearance. On the sweet, sad-eyed lullaby of Praying Ground, the Australian sings with an authority and assurance remarkable in a newcomer. Even more boldly, she more than holds her own on her duet with Lanegan, Rolling Sky, which is as menacing and unpredictable as an approaching storm.

Broken is probably too stubborn and idiosyncratic to win over many who haven't already acquired a taste for either Soulsavers or Lanegan. But those who have are likely to love it deeply and fiercely.

From Norman Records:
Soulsavers is the guise of Rich Machin and he's seemingly unlimited supply of celebrity rock pals. 'Broken' is the follow up to “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s How You Land” and sees Machin reunited with Mark Lanegan and a whole host of folks you know including Will Oldham, Mike Patton, Gibby Haynes, Jason Pierce, Richard Hawley among many more. It's a serious back slapping effort if ever I heard one, check the press release for the full details. OK, Soulsavers play serious drinking music, modern soulful blues as it were. I'm having problems getting into this stuff, it's like soundtrack music to The Sopranos or CSI. It's no bad thing but it's so achingly earnest that it sounds a bit forced to me. It might make sense if I drank more hard liquor and indulged dark twisted thoughts but I'm a party guy, I don't drink for misery's sake!! I drink because it's fun! You should too. Best tune by far is a Will Oldham cover of 'You Will Miss Me When I Burn'. It's understated and beautiful, unlike the rest of this album which is like some boys club, self help group, blues rock wig-out.


It is time for’s first exclusive album review! I just listened to the Soulsavers new album Broken, their second album featuring former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan on vocals. Lanegan’s voice is still by far one of the most haunting voices in rock, he sings his lyrics with a sincerity that most modern rock singers are incapable of doing. Lanegan’s lyrics are very reflective on Broken, he sings a lot about death on the album. Lanegan is no stranger to death, two of his closest friends Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley both died before their time. I don’t remember where this quote from Mark came from, but it probably sums up the meaning and inspiration behind the songs on this album, “All the guys who were my close friends are dead.” Mark Lanegan is a survivor, and with this album he deals with losing his friends and the inevitability of death. Broken is a very fitting title.

“You Will Miss Me When I Burn” is a real standout on the album, Lanegan can definitely relate to the lyrics of this song about death and questioning one’s mortality. He may not have written this song, but he was born to sing it.

“All the Way Down” is a great gospel tune which really exemplifies Lanegan’s diversity, he refuses to be pigeonholed in one genre. That’s why over the years he has participated in so many different projects and bands like the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, The Gutter Twins, his collaborations with Isobel Campbell, and Soulsavers. In “All the Way Down” Lanegan triumphantly sings about misery, and his tone of voice adds a sense of hope. “Shadows Down” is an epic, just beautiful, it slowly builds and builds. “Can’t Catch A Train” is another great song, it has my favorite lyrics on the album. Lanegan sings about being unable to find happiness and therefore not being able to “catch the train.” Broken has some rockers too like “Death Bells” which sounds like it could have been on Lanegan’s 2004 solo album Bubblegum, it is yet another song that deals with the theme of death. “Unbalanced Pieces” has a groovy bassline and features both Lanegan and Faith No More’s Mike Patton on vocals. The mixture of Lanegan and Patton’s two very distinctive voices makes for a memorable song.

Broken is definitely my favorite record Mark Lanegan has taken part in since his 2004 classic solo album Bubblegum and it is also my favorite Soulsavers record. Red Ghost does a great job on backing vocals, I prefer her voice with Lanegan over Isobel Campbell. Also I’ve got to give credit to Rich Machin and Ian Glover of Soulsavers, they are very creative and talented musicians. There’s a reason legends like Mark Lanegan and Mike Patton agree to work with them. Broken will be released on August 17th in the UK, and on August 18th digitally in the US. It is currently streaming for free on

From Chicagoist:
Rockin' Our Turntable: Soulsavers

Soulsavers is essentially a studio construction built by the duo of Rich Machin and Ian Glover. They create deft instrumental tracks that range from industrial scrawl to gospel wail. Their previous album was one of our favorites from 2007 primarily because amidst their meticulously crafted electro-soul rock jams, they employed an incredibly potent secret weapon in guest singer Mark Lanegan's vocals. Lanegan's presence took what would have been an interesting production project and elevated it into something viscerally appealing.

Machin and Glover are no dummies so they invited Lanegan back to handle the majority of the duties on their follow-up, Broken. Only this time they took the more is more approach and enlisted other guest vocalists to compliment Lanegan's scratched baritone and whiskey-honeyed tenor, including Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes, Mike Patton, and Spiritualized's Jason Pierce. The production of Broken often verges on the claustrophobic, so this tactic could have proved disastrous as egos battled for dominance, turning the songs underneath into sludge. Instead, everyone defers to Lanegan as the emotionally grounding presence, and other contributions are gauzy overlays providing subtly tasteful support.

Lanegan dominates the first 3/4 of the disc, all moody atmospherics and continuous tension, when all of a sudden he's momentarily displaced on the gentle "Praying Ground" by the sweet and gentle vocals of Red Ghost, Australian singer Rosa Agostino. It's a brief respite before things start to get seriously creepy on "Rolling Sky" as her vocals veer into a drunken sensuality and combine into a boozy, drifting duet with Lanegan. It's a striking moment, and a canny move that keeps the album off balance and interesting. After the earlier din, and the brief sweet interlude, this song betrays the true heart of Soulsavers to reveal nightmare dreamscapes smeared with kohled eyes, bourbon kisses, and dark redemption. And hope. As closing track "By My Side" intones via Red Ghost's sweetly tired delivery that "you are by my side." We're not sure the "you" is an apparition or an actual companion, but the message is that there's still hope, no matter how dire the surroundings.

It's a dark world, but one worth submerging yourself in.

From Spinner:
Soulsavers Team Up With Indie Rock Greats on 'Broken'
After scoring a critical and radio hit with 'Revival,' Soulsavers found themselves with a broad range of collaborators to choose from on their stellar new release, 'Broken.' The electro-soul collective, featuring former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan on vocals, picked some of indie rock's greatest frontmen, from Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes and Spiritualized's Jason Pierce to Faith No More's Mike Patton.

So what did they look for in assembling this who's who of vocalists? "To do something that compliments and enhances the music," Soulsavers' architect Rich Machin tells Spinner. "Every single one of them, everything they brought to the record was special. They are incredibly talented group of people to work with and it's an honor to make music with those guys."

But, come on, give us a little more, like how they got them on there. Haynes, for instance, is a frequent guest presence on other people's work. "He had actually seen us play in New York on the last record, so I don't think I really had to twist his arm," Lanegan says.

As for future projects and possible collaborators, Machin has a long list of wish partners, but a couple stand out. "The standard answer is Jimmy Page," he says. "That's always good. On the plane I was listening to the first Wu Tang Clan album on the way over here. That album still kills me and I guess I can hear bits of the production technique that they had that I've tried to bite and steal, probably nowhere near as well as they have, but that record is as influential on me as a Bob Dylan record, you know. Working with RZA or somebody like that would be really interesting. So yeah, I'd be down with hooking up with the Wu collective."

From Drowned In Sound:
by Radhika Takru

You're not allowed to proselytise where I'm from - it's against the law. Comes with adopting the identity of a secular country. Which is why the hawkers selling religion at my doorstep in my current location leave me bemused. I like to play with these purveyors of faith on my front porch in much the same way. I like to poke holes in their theories, suggest that their God may have his hands full and is possibly not in the mood to watch over any new recruits, claim that I'd rather be watched over by an omnipotent teapot that keeps me equipped with an infinite supply of perfectly curled black tea leaves (not that it does) and then figuratively flick them away by challenging the effectiveness of their one-god system with my spontaneously claimed 3,000,000,000-god system. It is in the face of such flawless mathematical logic that they totter off sadly to deposit themselves in a laundry basket somewhere.


If only they knew that all they had to do was smirk and subject me to waves of 'Revival', the overwhelming, gospel-laden lead track off northern production duo Soulsavers' last release It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land, they'd have the satisfaction of seeing me reduced to a quivering mass at their feet, convinced and converted.

Indeed, that seems to have been the primary purpose of that record - to hypnotise you into submission and shepherd you to the little cove wherein Broken resides waiting patiently for your arrival.

Former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan is enlisted (again) as preacher and assigned the task of demonstrating the finer points of distinction between good and evil. 'The Seventh Proof' unveils the album innocently enough. With its Victorian keys, it is a gravity defying symphony that winds up rudely dropping the listener before a pointy-tailed Lanegan. On 'Death Bells', this pitchfork-wielding avatar taunts his nemesis with "angels keep singing, Lord, singing in my ear" – lines delivered with a scornful smirk likening what one would expect to be beautiful harp-fuelled music to pesky bluebottles. His antics are egged on by Butthole Surfer, Gibby Haynes, the loyal Beelzebub who is edged out by Mike Patton on 'Unbalanced Pieces' – a broodily menacing track ("today I kill you (kill you)") made only more sinister by Patton’s voice slithering to the surface for the chorus ("gone... now carry on").

Lanegan morphs from personified evil to a man grown old and broken by life on 'You’ll Miss Me When I Burn'. Bitterly he mumbles "when you have no one, no one can hurt you" - half to himself, wishing he'd realised this before he found himself paying for his sins in isolation, and half to you, hoping to pass on this revelation, and praying you won't make the mistakes he did "I have warned you – there are awful things" he cautions knowingly. You raise an eyebrow, wondering if there's some sort of deeper meaning hidden within that statement.

Soulsavers have always had a bit of a Spritualized thing going for them, so a collaboration with Jason Pierce is natural. It's inevitable. It's anticipated with impatient foot-tapping, finger-drumming and at-watch-looking. However, like the rest of the cameos, Mr. Spaceman's appearance on 'Pharaoh's Chariot' is limited to serving as a fleeting echo of Lanegan's dominating vocals. If you don't look at the tracklist, you don't know he's there at all.

In fact, the only person fortunate enough to be permitted a sizable share of the spotlight is relative noob Red Ghost, who also answers to the name Rosa Agostino. Based in Sydney, she bombarded Soulsavers' Rich Machin with enough (astoundingly good) demos to compel him to give her a ring. Not only does she get preferential treatment in terms of vocal volume, she's also the only guest-vocalist to get two songs entirely to herself while a third - 'Rolling Sky' - is the only track on the entire album which qualifies as a legitimate duet, despite the half dozen more, er, shall we say - illustrious - cameos. On some level, this is probably understandable, and Red does possess the sort of voice that is perfectly suited to accompany a trip-hop type outfit – the kind that wouldn’t be out of place on a Massive Attack record.

Never before has a band name been more aptly descriptive of their music. What is odd, however, is that Soulsavers aren't a group based on a belief system, nor do they sell themselves as one. It just so happens that each song, no matter how strongly guitar-driven, comes coated with churchy reverberations. There is no mention of religion apart from the occasional 'Lord' thrown in out of frustration or resignation, but the choirs, the strings and the ominous echoes are enough to have you in spasms on the floor enlightened by revelation. With no overt evidence pointing to these ‘Soulsaver’ chaps as the culprits, any authorities called to inspect your sorry state will give a dismissive shake of the head to these embodiments of incorruptibility and cart you away. By getting to them before the proselytisers, you’re likely to save yourself from a convulsive change of faith.

Mojo magazine
Sept 2009 issue

Staffordshire lad Rich Machin deep in the LA mire

After murky late-Big Beat beginnings, Rich Soulsaver scored high with 2007’s It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land, a blissful epic fronted by Mark Lanegan.
Broken repeats the team-up, but in wider-screen yet, fully evocative of its genesis in the sprawl of Los Angeles.
Machin’s orchestral soundtracking is freshly-vamped his new live combo’s electric rock. Across the 13 tracks, too: glimpses of gospel, country (a terrific ballad by Will Oldham), and a jazz of free and dissonant stripe. As such, it’s very David Axelrod, and very Jason Pierce, who guests, as do Richard Hawley, Gibby Haynes and Mike Patton. They all wisely retreat behind Lanegan, who’s in sonorous, imperious voice, particularly on a dazzlingly powerful reading of Gene Clark’s Some Misunderstanding. Towards the album’s conclusion, Australian chantreuse Rosa Agostino plunges the depths on Praying Ground’s plea for sleep. For the spiritually and narcotically mangled, Broken will be essential.
Review by Andrew Perry


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