Monday, March 19, 2012


I was surprised when I realized that Mark Lanegan's Blues Funeral is his first solo album since 2004's Bubblegum (a really underrated record).  Of course, he's kept busy over the past decade: he joined (and then left) Queens Of The Stone Age, he's done records as a duo with former Belle & Sebastian member Isobell Campbell and he had The Gutter Twins band with Greg Dulli. He's also collaborated with Soulsavers on two LPs, and I think that the latter experience influenced the sound of this album.

Soulsavers is a British dance music/remix team with a big rock, gospel and country influence.  Lanegan went in some new directions with them; he sang on two albums and also performed with them. The Soulsavers don't appear on the LP, but Lanegan kept a contemporary (but not pandering) sound here, thanks to his "Band," namely multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes and drummer Jack Irons.  In other words, 2/3 of Eleven.  Johannes produced the record as well, and I'd love to get a copy of this to The Edge: U2 should sign this guy up immediately. I feel like this is the album they were trying to make last time.  It is definitely the kind of album Chris Cornell was trying to make on his last solo joint (and since Johannes has worked with Cornell on his solo albums, it's a shame that they didn't come up with anything this incredible).

"Bleeding Muddy Water" is a classic blues or soul song: I'd love to hear Gary Clark Jr. covering this one.  "St. Louis Elegy" sees Lanegan and Dulli singing together again: it's a potent blend, and I'd recommend that Greg consider working with Johannes on the next Twilight Singers LP. "Riot In My House" is as close to metal as Lanegan's gotten on his own records; unsurprisingly, Queen Josh Homme is wailing away on the track. "Ode To Sad Disco" is definitely a song U2 would wish they wrote if they heard this, and ditto for "Quiver Syndrome." (by the way, I realize how off-putting my U2 references are to Lanegan fans. Apologies).

I can't think of many examples of an album that sounds so cutting edge, while maintaining a kind of warmth.  It rocks, it swings.  A couple of years ago, if you told me that Lanegan would do a fresh sounding, electronic-tinged record that would blow my mind, I may not have believed it. But it's kind of like Johnny Cash singing on U2's "The Wanderer" (them again).  It shouldn't work, but it works.

The year isn't 25% over, but I have to think that this will make my top 10 of the year.  If it doesn't, it will have been an amazing year for music.

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