Friday, February 10, 2012

A Review: Mark Lanegan- Blues Funeral

A fuzzed hypnotic bass jackhammers recklessly through subterranean waves of gray. A gravelly dull roar rumbles through the speakers, confidently freezing the marrow of the lazy listener.  The voice of Mark Lanegan and his smoky purr blurts the words "with piranha teeth, Ive been dreaming of you"..and we're leveled. Flatlined in attentive bliss. It's the start of Gravedigger's Song, the first track from Blues Funeral, Mr. Lanegans's first solo effort since 2004's Bubblegum.

There is a familiarity to the presentation. The basement window view of a day's weary underside in the hue of the melody and lyrics..".The magnolia blooms so sweet and it fades just the same"... Onto lines like "Muddy water, celestial flood, you know I feel ya, in my iron lung" from Bleeding Muddy Water...These cold panoramas jumpstart this album. It feels like comfort, a musty tattered sweater of protection reminiscent of his earlier work..Whiskey For the Holy Ghost, I'll Take Care of You...whisps of that era are evident here... A guide to many a broken overcast afternoon...We drift through the icy still of St. Louis Elegy, with its organ laden chorus ringing like a spaghetti western hymnal, .."Down here the winter, will cut you quick, these tears are liquor and I've drunk myself sick.".... it rings with comatose sadness, humming dreary and dried eyed with memory lapses.

And then, a blind spot right turn into a thick thud and screamy riff as "burnouts by the score, strung out in metal cages" line the hazy halls and pollute the ash dust couches of  Riot in My House, a stand out track with a Josh Homme tone and migraine like solo that rips through the before during and aftermath of a seven day stretch in a Yakima high desert drug den. Is Lanegan behind this blurry camera, or a bit player in this meth-merizing scene?

We now come to the curveball and concrete cornerstone of the album, Ode to Sad Disco. Mark finds his faith among the lost mass of revelers dancing in half speed comas while powder driven rhythm makes a phoenix-ful rise from an Erasure- like synth and Linn drum bed . His uncharacteristic break from baritone to an almost falsetto preach is a revelation, soaring sleepily over lines like " A mountain of dust, burns in your mouth, here there's no north or south".

The help is legendary. From Eleven, the Queens and more, Alain Johannes appears as jack and master of all studio trades, Jack Irons(RHCP, Pearl Jam, Eleven) is on drums, Greg Dulli (the other gutter twin) and Masters of Reality king Chris Goss contribute vocals, and the aforementioned QOTSA mastermind and former Screaming Trees touring guitarist Josh Homme brings the thrift shop guitars. Within this collective, the vision and depth of these songs radiate with an ease of effort, allowing Lanegan's vastly under rated lyrical output, to finally stand on its own.

In Phantasmagoria Blues, a hushed clock tick drum and bobbing guitar brushes behind the exhausted introspect and dark shock of lines like "if you found a razor blade and took it to your wrist, then I'd be here in my electric chair because of this" Heavy load. Hardly lifted, emblazoned with an empty beauty.

Next, Quiver Syndrome, an alluring, overdriven dope sickened, allegoric anthem acts as a raced pulse Pt.2 to the fabulously frantic track  Hit the City, from the Bubblegum album.

The muted thump of  80's drums and The Edge- like guitars lift the sigh and sag of Harborview Hospital, a wandering ode to outpatients, basking in the synth sirens, like ghosts of remorse.

Deep Black Vanishing Train veers into Lanegan and Mike Johnson timestamped acoustic guitar category from the Whiskey for the Holy Ghost era, a old man's requiem to the tracks of time, peppered with piccolo.

The electronic drums and three- tiered  Rolands hum behind the dry ice haze and stage fog of Tiny Grain of Truth. This, the final track could be a travel log to the many lanes and collapsed veins of a city in afterglow, with nary a guitar to be found anywhere within its meandering 7 minutes. Neon blurs of endless expressways are connected by an almost Kraftwerk feel as we are led away. It is a jarring, cosmic end to this journey

 The husky narration, breathtaking back line and sheer scope of sound presented this time out should shove Lanegan to an unseen level of respect and infamy with Blues Funeral, a purely massive achievement of an album full of bleak pastiches and beautiful burdens, all transported by a myriad of throwback rhythms and memories.

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