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Album Review
Blues Funeral

Blues Funeral
by Mark Lanegan Band

Label
4AD
Rating

Review Date
20th February 2012
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

It feels like a long wait since Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) released his last solo album, Bubblegum. In that time however he has released three albums with Isobel Campbell from Bell & Sebastian, one with Greg Dulli (Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs) as the Gutter Twins, as well as significant collaborations with UNKLE, Soulsavers, Queens of the Stone Age, and Twilight Singers. Let it never be said that the man is lazy. In fact restlessness seems to be a constant motif in Lanegan’s music. His tools of the trade have always been plaintive blues tempered between slabs of apocalyptic rock and this album is no exception. However for Blues Funeral Lanegan has added a new sound to his arsenal; garish swathes of goth and glam.

The stark rumble of electric bass kicks of ‘Gravedigger’s Song’, a song that finds Lanegan picking right up form where Bubblegum left off all those years ago. The instruments writhe and quake at the terrible splendour of this hard-hearted rocker. When somebody with his formidable gruffness growls “with piranha teeth I’ve been dreaming of you” you are equal parts repelled and seduced by his lurid imagery. Knowing the man’s history, it would be all too easy to read into every snippet of bleak poetry he writes to try and find the wink of ex-junkie wisdom. Elsewhere the soft distant beat of ‘St Louis Elegy’ belies the emotional weight of its most powerful line “If tears were liquor / I’d have drunk myself sick”.

Lanegan has said that Blues Funeral is more like the sort of albums that he enjoys himself rather than the ones he has already made. That means you can hear touches of Joy Division, U2, and Roxy Music amidst the murk and gloom. The weight of his drawl is quite at odds with the tracks that toy with cloying new romanticism (such as the bizarre ‘Ode to Sad Disco’). In an attempt at levity he pushes his weathered instrument almost to breaking point. The juxtaposition of its elements may be baffling but the song manages to humanise Lanegan’s warhorse balladeer persona. He still casts his mind and voice to octane-fuelled highways and rock and roll defiance once in a while. ‘Quiver Syndrome’ is this album’s ‘Driving Death Valley Blues’, an incendiary howler that spikes up the energy in the latter half. Wall-to-wall synthesizers and back masked guitars inflate ‘Tiny Grain of Truth’ into a seven minute spectacle of an album closer that twinkles away into darkness.

As good as the end result is, very little on this album is much of a stretch for Lanegan. He has done the morose troubadour musings of ‘Bleeding Muddy Waters’ plenty of times before, the shimmering high camp of ‘Grey Goes Black’ is a retread of his Gutter Twins project, and the gut-kick rawk of ‘Riot In My House’ is a dead ringer for late-era Screaming Trees. Some might lament this as an aging artist “phoning it in”. But when you have a talent and gravitas as formidable as Mark Lanegan, should you be surprised (or appalled) when he does what he does best? Do people leap down Bob Dylan’s throat for just being Bob Dylan?


Links
marklanegan.com




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