Mark Langen Band
06 February 2012
by Jon Kerr
The history of rock and blues have been so mixed and muddied together over the course of history that attempting to pick apart their various genomes and how they all interact with each other is almost a failed endeavour from the start. Now that the former Screaming Trees vocalist, Mark Lanegan, has somewhat audaciously thrown disco into the mix as well with his new album, we’re even less sure where to begin….
Somewhat amazingly, however, it kind of works. Blues Funeral – Lanegan’s seventh solo album – places deep and graceful acoustic blues numbers next to haunting synth beats, with touches of spacey, desert rock scattered about alongside lashings of Lanegan’s famously somber tone. One minute you’re miles from home, deep in late-era Robert Plant-esque blues rock territory [‘Gray Goes Black’] and the next you’re sat surrounded by pop-synths in the waiting room of ‘Harbourview Hospital’. This isn;t to say Blues Funeral’s eclecticism isn’t without its flaws – ‘Leviathan’ features a really irritating random keyboard effect, which clashes with everything else.
From the opening thumps of ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’, to the unexpected pop of ‘Ode To Sad Disco’, you’re never quite able to get settled. And it’s not just the music: Lanegan’s voice is lighter, more celebratory on the later track. It’s almost like he’s finally having a bit of fun. ‘Ode To Sad Disco’ is by no means a rock song, although the lyrics are full of irony, but it is a really likable experiment.
But it’s during the slow burners that Blues Funeral really flexes its muscles. Beautiful yet gloomy, Lanegan the poet reveals himself on ‘St Louis Elegy’: “If tears were liquor I’d have drunk myself sick”. Like Tom Waits and others before him, one of the finest things about Lanegan has always been his dead-pan delivery of darkness, as shown with ‘Phantasmagoria Blues’: “Thought I’d rule like Charlemagne / But I’ve become corrupt / Now I’ll crawl the promenade / To fill my empty cup”. Elsewhere, you can tap your dusty cowboy boots to the thumping threesome of ‘Riot In My House’ and ‘Quiver Syndrome’. It’s almost as if Kyuss (well, true Kyuss…) never left us.
Watch the video to ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ by Mark Lanegan Band:
An album of just songs like this would have held together far better and possibly have been even approaching on the hallowed ground of “classic” status. But as it is, the mish-mash of styles and the niggling feeling at the end of the record when you realise the effect of many of the tracks has been quite familiar, you can’t help feel that Lanegan hasn’t so much reinvented any wheels so much as giving some of them a bit of a solid bit of touching up.
Sounds Like: The Desert Sessions, Grinderman, Kyuss
Standout Tracks: Bleeding Muddy Water, Riot In My House, St Louis Elegy