Album of the day: Mark Lanegan Band ‘Blues Funeral’ – album review

 

Mark Lanegan Band

‘Blues Funeral’

8/10

 

 

 

On this, his first solo outing in eight years, after many collaborations- Soul Survivors, Gutter Twins, Queens of the Stone Age and, most notably, ex Belle and Sebastian chanteuse Isabel Campbell- Mark Lanegan borrows a little from each of the different sonic terrains he has encountered on his travails and mined them to fashion a work very much his own.

 

Along the way he adds a few influences of his own such as pulsating, throbbing dance rhythms a la Xtrmntr-era Primal Scream in some unholy alliance with Daft Punk or Edge style guitar leanings-thankfully without the Bono Bombast- to create a work of intense diversity but somehow still sounds like no-one else. This is due to the unmistakeable gravel toned debauchery of Lanegan’ vocals which bringtheir own dimension to the dynamic. The magnificence of this bellwether of a voice- Marianne Faithfull is a natural female counterpart and there’s an idea for his next collaboration wherein each could try to outdo the other in who can sound more debauched and ravaged whilst simultaneously trying to out-croak each other- takes us to the demimonde of Lanegan’s inner psyche with ”˜tears made of liquor’ and a ”˜crow flying eight miles high’ hung onto a permeating darkness which, considering the Blues Funeral title of the opus, was only to be expected.

 

Opening with a compelling statement of intent, the lead off single ”˜Gravedigger Blues’, a frantic clutter of rhythm we first encounter Lanegan stalking up on the track and placing his guttural growl over the proceedings bemoaning his ”˜head heavy pain’ skilfully laying out an agenda of what is to follow. Follow up track ”˜Bleeding Muddy Water’ deploys a modern day blues aesthetic whilst Lanegan mourns ”˜Muddy water/ Celestial Flood’ with a gruff intensity over a nagging, insistent backing. ”˜Gray Goes Black’ steps the beat up again and is almost radio friendly with its pleas of ”˜don’t turn off my radio’ before taking us back into more familiar darkened territory with lines like ”˜ropes keep swinging’. Gray does indeed go black. ”˜Riot in my House’ delves back into the modern day blues territory and the plaintive lyrics ”˜If tears were liquor then I’ve drunk myself sick’ are typical Lanegan though his sincerity saves them from slipping into cliche. ”˜Riot in My House’ is closer to traditional rock but with blues pickings. The blues however make way for the throbbing disco prowl of ”˜Ode to Sad Disco’ and what is probably the best track of 2012 so far.

 

Relentless in its execution ”˜Ode to Sad Disco’ never once lets up throughout its duration and the depth of Lanegan’s vocals make an incongruous pairing with the full on pulsating, mechanical rhythms but somehow it all blends perfectly. Slow building verses with references to a ”˜diamond headed serpent’ rise to the almost throwaway refrain of ”˜I get down on my knees’ before concluding ”˜Here I have seen the light’.

 

”˜Phantasmagoria Blues’ has the unenviable task of following this powerhouse of a track and does so by functioning as an aural decompression chamber with slow languorous broodings over a circular guitar riff. ”˜Quiver Syndrome’ then starts up like the Beatles ”˜Helter Skelter’ before taking off on an unscheduled flight of its own design rocking out in a fashion which should have the young pups twenty years his junior quaking in their heels. ”˜Harborview Hospital’ sounds a little like U2 in its guitar riffs but totally Lanegan with the nicotine strained and alcohol soaked vocals replacing the faux intensity and grandiose sincerity of Bono.

 

”˜Leviathan’ strips things right back and is a menacing blues of depraved and corrosive intensity which would have been as scary one hundred years ago as it will be a hundred years from now. ”˜Deep Black Menacing Train’ is melancholia at its purest with Lanegan and a sparseguitar motif articulating neatly with each other ”˜I’ve tried to free myself but it’s been hard to break away’ and ”˜ Too late to learn another game’ he opines against minimal backing. This would have made a fitting closer as it dovetails neatly with the intense claustrophobia of ”˜Gravedigger Blues’ to frame what is close to a masterpiece. However things round off with ”˜Tiny Grain of Truth’ which although not a bad track feels unnecessary almost like one of those bonus tracks which come as part of”˜deluxe’ packages.

 

Blues Funeral lives up to its name, taking in the rotting fruits and insights of Lanegans forays into the nether world of the demimonde where corrosiveness, debauchery and whisky soaked thoughts all conspire to be heard. It is a thought provoking intensive ride and although it is only February could shape up to be one of the albums of the year.

 

 

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