Released: 6th February 2012
Genre: Blues Rock
TL;DR: Best Funeral Soundtrack I’ve Ever Heard
SINCE the start of his career nearly 30 years ago, Mark Lanegan has always been a man who prefers being out of the spotlight and within the shadows. Therefore it only makes sense that his first solo album in nearly a decade, Blues Funeral, familiarises us all of these traits that make up his personality.
Inbetween this year and 2004, the year of Lanegan’s last solo effort Bubblegum, he has collaborated with a slightly varied genre of artists, from Queens of the Stone Age, to Greg Dulli, to former Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, as well as many more. But it’s pretty safe to say that Blues Funeral is the darkest material to feature an accurate description of Mark Lanegan’s aesthetic for a long, long time.
We begin with lead single The Gravedigger’s Song, a track that reveals an unexpected change in sound for Mark Lanegan. The distorted bass and keys from long-time friend and producer Alain Johannes gives off an electronic sound that fills out the track nicely, and fortunately compliments the unique tobacco-stained baritone voice of Mark Lanegan.
There are screams of Johannes’ guitar that swirl all around the layers of the track, sounding very much similar to the finale of the track Spinning In Daffodils from Them Crooked Vultures’ off their self titled debut album, which funnily enough was a section of unreleased track Never Come Back by none other than Mark Lanegan.
The repeated instrumentation and the rolling drum beat from Jack Irons pound into the listener’s head creating the notion that Lanegan is back where he belongs, and with a force stronger than we all anticipated. The Gravedigger’s Song is a great beginning to an album full of paths and different directions.
Lanegan’s Kraftwerk obsession bleeds through on track Gray Goes Black as despite the haunting guitar and the always chilling vocals and lyrics, the drums are actually playing at an above appropriate tempo. Eventually the drums begin to stray away from its strict repeated pattern and ascend into another level to create a welcomed contrast that luckily plays off well.
A whole host of guests contribute to Blues Funeral too, ranging from expected choices such as Josh Homme, Greg Dulli, Chris Goss, Dave Catching as well as others. As if Mark Lanegan needed anybody else to perform a solo or two when he has Alain Johannes producing it but nevermind, it’s an added treat for the listener. Josh Homme is possibly my favourite contributor, as he shreds all over the first rock-heavy track on the album Riot In My House with a solo that is just so Homme-like.
Lyrically, Blues Funeral reveals Mark Lanegan in an open and raw state. Scattered throughout each of the dozen tracks there are certain lines that show Mark reflecting on his past, whether that be with his drug addiction, or alcohol, everything is detailed to the point of wondering if this new album is Mark’s way of bringing closure on his past addictions.
I suppose in a way it’s a miracle that Mark didn’t perish like many of his friends did, especially the friends he made in Seattle (Cobain, Messrs, Stayley) but then that also made Mark Lanegan the man he is today, a man who enjoys the shadow rather than the spotlight. The tattoos on his fingers, the black clothing, and the haunting voice, everything about his aesthetic reveals darkness, maybe he’s adopting that persona because he’s somehow managed to escape the bleakest darkness, death.
Either way, Blues Funeral is a fantastic doorway into the discography of Mark Lanegan. There are moments that sound like Bubblegum, like The Gutter Twins, like Queens of the Stone Age, like Screaming Trees, everything that made him the man he is today all turned into a dozen tracks which celebrate that in the most exciting and sombre way possible. It shows that Mark Lanegan hasn’t lost his touch as a solo artist and this added electronic element into his sound only seems to extend the possibilities of the next solo release, which I cannot wait for.