Review: Mark Lanegan Band – ‘Blues Funeral’

BluesFuneralartMark Lanegan is like a liquor-soaked deity, down in the silt, keeping celestial and scrambling for faith.

He sees you, me, himself and reunites us all in song; a great big melting pot of angels, souls intertwining as blithely as smoke moves through the air. His voice, the bruised communicator, relays contempt and corruption consistently, bearing a rare romance that can be compared to few other artists. Similarly to have dragged their heels through the primordial gravels of distinction, have been Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. Lanegan, Cohen and Waits share a distilled sort of depth, sing about the Lord and bask on their despair with melancholy grace.

The Mark Lanegan Band have returned to long play forums for the first time since 2004’s ‘Bubblegum‘; ‘Blues Funeral‘ exposes more unusual lyrics, peculiar titles and mud-heavy bass tracks.

The original recordings penned by Lanegan were somehow mysteriously erased prior to recording, and so the album is the product of a long-standing partnership, between Lanegan and intuitive producer Alain Johannes, with songs co-ordinated more last minute than desired. Riding the Desert Sessions, co-writing songs and instinctively working alongside his artists; Johannes is associated with Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Chris Cornell, Spinnerette and of course Lanegan himself.

Lanegan’s past associations include Screaming Trees, Soulsavers and Gutter Twins – having plucked Greg Dulli from the latter to work within The Band for ‘Blues Funeral’. The album also bears contributors such as Josh Homme and Jack Irons from Pearl Jam. And just what do they contribute?

Well, the album opens with ‘The Gravedigger’s Song‘, a track of awesome might which sustains an industrious pulse, as though a night train ripping through valleys of desolation. Reminiscent of ‘Songs For The Deaf‘, this is surely stamped with Homme’s honorary mark. Falling into a hypnotic lull comes ‘Bleeding Muddy Water‘, where subtlety couldn’t possibly be underestimated.

Gray Goes Black‘ comes as a subliminal reminder of former collaborator PJ Harvey with it’s jaunty ‘Let England Shake‘ like rhythm. Two songs on and we’re exposed to the full-on electric guitar layered upon ‘Riot In My House‘ as Lanegan warns that ‘there’s hot smoking radiation from window to the door in ultra violent hesitation’. Once again ensuring to keep his lyrical prowess in perfect tact.

Phantasmagoria Blues‘ – you may ask just where the hell does he find these words? The song adheres to that hypnotic lullaby rhythm so distinctive of Lanegan, he regularly returns to it. It harkens back to both ‘Strange Religion‘ and ‘Morning Glory Wine‘ off ‘Bubblegum’ – without quite managing to rip himself off.

Harborview Hospital‘ carries a wistful quality. Flighty guitars, a rattle-of-a-rhythm and synthy visitations make for a deeply emotive addition to the album. It follows on into ‘Leviathan‘, lyrically accomplished but audibly perhaps a little too grating despite an attempt at haunting.

The last few tracks almost feel as though they were kissed by Ian Brown during the production process…with a mouth full of grit. They have a spacey sense, like listening in from the ceiling to harmonics ebbing from the room above. The final song, ‘Tiny Grain of Truth‘, is a collision of atmospheric effect on a beating seesaw as Lanegan imaginably plods through ‘the heart of the city at night, in black and white.’

‘Blues Funeral’, released February 6th, is another astounding effort by The Mark Lanegan Band.

(Joanne Ostrowski)


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