Friday, February 10, 2012

Mark Lanegan Band: "Blues Funeral" (album review)

Mark Lanegan has been keeping himself busy over the last few years.  He's released albums with Isobel Campbell, The Gutter Twins, Soulsavers, Queens Of The Stone Age, and even his old group Screaming Trees.  With all of that going on, his own work got shunted to the side.

Well, no longer.  Lanegan has returned with Blues Funeral, the new album from Mark Lanegan Band.

This is a bit of a tweener album for Lanegan.  The songs don't form a cohesive whole.  In fact, it sounds as though this is a collection of misfit tracks that didn't fit on any of those other projects he has been working on.  That's not to say they aren't good though.

A handful of songs, such as the morose trudging "St Louis Elegy" and the hushed "Deep Black Vanishing Train", would fit nicely on one of Lanegan's Campbell collaborations.  The ominous grinding of "The Gravedigger's Song", and the gritty "Riot In My House" could easily be Gutter Twins' outtakes.  The up-tempo "Quiver Syndrome" contains a catchy 'do-do-do' refrain near the end that comes closer to Screaming Trees than Lanegan has been in a long time.

There are a few instances when Lanegan crosses into new territory.  An '80s Anglo Goth rock guitar line dominates "Gray Goes Black".  "Harborview Hospital" is an unexpectedly arty, spacey number.  A drum machine chugs away in the background of "Ode To Sad Disco", lending it a sound that falls somewhere between TV On The Radio and Goldfrapp.

Of course, it's really those brooding moments that keep people coming back to Lanegan.  On Blues Funeral those are best found as the animosity wells up on "Bleeding Muddy Water", and "Tiny Grain of Truth" sprawls out before you.

By no mean is Blues Funeral the strongest album in Lanegan's catalogue.  However, it does serve a purpose in cleaning out a backlog of songs that should help pave the way for more compelling work to follow.

Best tracks: "Quiver Syndrome", "Tiny Grain of Truth"

Track listing for Blues Funeral:
  • The Gravedigger's Song
  • Bleeding Muddy Water
  • Gray Goes Black
  • St Louis Elegy
  • Riot In My House
  • Ode To Sad Disco
  • Phantasmagoria Blues
  • Quiver Syndrome
  • Harborview Hospitl
  • Leviathan
  • Deep Black Vanishing Train
  • Ting Grain of Truth

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