Blues Funeral – Mark Lanegan Band

It’s no secret I think Mark Lanegan is the last of a dying breed. On the one hand, he looks like some gas station attendant who would kick your ass if you didn’t tip him. However, under the chain-smoking, whiskey-chugging guise lies the soul of a true poet/musician. Since 2004’s Bubblegum, he’s been involved in a vast number of other projects, all of which have received much-deserved critical acclaim. But now, he’s decided to return to the monikor, the Mark Lanegan Band and put out a new album. At the risk of sounding like more a fan boy than I need to, I’ve been waiting for this album since I was 16. And while I don’t think it’s better than Bubblegum (I put that record on a pedestal as it is), it’s still a good effort, especially considering the new territory it covers.

As cliche as it sounds, this record is a vast departure from the last one. I kind of expected that when I heard the first single/song, “The Gravedigger’s Blues.”With a thumping new wave but heavy bassline, Lanegan returns with a hell of a line: “With piranha teeth/I been dreaming of you/and the taste of your love so sweet/honest its true.” After the bombastic opener, he moves into the tamer “Bleeding Muddy Water.” The track still packs a punch and keeps your blood flowing. For a man who has built his career around live blues instrumentation, to see him utilize a drum machine successfully helps show his innovation. Sometimes it works, like in this track and “Ode to Sad Disco”, other times you can see that he’s still chipping away some of the stuff he’s getting a feel for. Songs like”Haborview Hospital”, with a drum machine beat that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Radiohead album. Moments like these feel forced and not as sincere. However, when Lanegan throws in a guitar (with the help of Josh Homme or Alain Johannes), he stomps and growls his way through his old familiar territory. This would include shitkickers like “Riot In My House” and my favorite on the record “Quiver Syndrome.” The latter throws in a few synth melodies that show that Lanegan is able to mix the old with the new better than most.

In regards to this record, when it’s strong, it’s REALLY strong. When it’s weak, it kind of flat lines. Is it worth owning? Of course. It takes some digesting but Lanegan is making a bold transition in his career, especially since he’s almost 50. He’s promised that the next Mark Lanegan Band record will come out sooner, which makes me think that this album was definitely more about him getting his sea legs. It’ll be interesting to see where he takes the band next and we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him. Check out the single below along with a b-side “Burning Jacob’s Ladder.” It seems like youtube has pulled all the other tracks and with all of the SOPA controversy going around, I don’t think I’m gonna risk putting up a couple of tracks. But if you can find it, check out “Quiver Syndrome” and “Bleeding Muddy Water Blues” as well. Pick up the record on February 6th.

The Gravedigger’s Song – Mark Lanegan Band

Burning Jacob’s Ladder – Mark Lanegan Band

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