Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mark Lanegan Band

Blues Funeral


Lanegan’s first album since 2004’s Bubblegum was well worth the wait. The band, Mark on vocals, multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes of the late, great Eleven, and drummer Jack Irons are crackerjack, giving these 12 songs a dark, heavy, steeped-in-the-blues feel. Among various special guests, Greg Dulli of Twilight Singers adds wonderful color on “St. Louis Elegy,” Joshua Homme’s stormy guitar ripples through “Riot in my House,” and Shelley Brein’s pitch-perfect singing on “Quiver Syndrome." “Ode to Sad Disco” uses elements of Keli Hiodversson’s “Sad Disco” to enhance Mark’s song to a T.

Lanegan’s voice, now somewhat weathered, raspy, but still with his trademark deep rumble, sounds at home here. He’s lived these songs, their pain and loss, the feelings of someone who has been around the block more times than he can count, and is accustomed to suffering. It is a masterful performance. He never wavers, but loses himself so completely in the songs that they stick tight, and never let up in putting what he wants to say across.

His lyrics are poetry. “To the stars my love, to the sea, to the wheels my love, until they roll all over me,” from “The Gravediggers Song,” “into the blood we sink and burn, gray goes black,” from “Gray Goes Black,” and “straight through the eye of a needle at night,” from “Tiny Grain of Truth,” to use a few examples, convey many meanings. Does his love encompass so much, and then reduce to nothing? Burning until death sets in? Is the needle a light in the darkness? This is what I take from these lines. They will mean something different to everyone.

This album is a masterpiece. It is perfect, and a tour-de-force on every track, but with no one ever showing off, just lending their many talents to an album that is a welcome look into someone’s world, a dark, sad world, but also one of redemption and hope, of a stubborn sense of perseverance that somehow this will all pass if his characters all try their hardest.

Andrea Weiss

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