Reviews for Blues Funeral
“Sin-soaked growl and lyrics brimming with mystical, surrealist imagery”
Those who have followed Mark Lanegan throughout the course of his multifaceted career have, without a doubt, recognized a timeless quality in his signature bluesy baritone. Blues Funeral is so majestic that is appears to be from a different realm entirely. Since becoming a solo artist, the former Screaming Trees frontman has attracted quite the following. If there were one adjective to describe Lanegan’s seventh record, it would be “intense.”
The heart-pounding drumbeat of the album’s opener, “The Gravedigger’s Song,” beckons listeners forth into a world that is ferocious, rocking, atmospheric, and bluesy. There is something to be said for the way the prolific Lanegan effortlessly explores the musical map, paying homage to his own influences while developing a style all his own. Blues Funeral delves deep into humanity. Lanegan, the soul-searcher and truth-seeker, holds the lantern light at the entrance of the tunnel, waiting to navigate both himself and listeners through its shadowy but enlightening passageways.
From here on, chills abound with the haunting “St. Louis Elegy,” which brilliantly marries the voices of Lanegan and Greg Dulli, (Twilight Singers) together once more. Admirers of the two will find much to love here amongst profound lyrics: “If tears were liquor, I’d have drunk myself sick.” Even the window-rattling, electronic “Quiver Syndrome” is indicative of Lanegan’s willingness to push boundaries.
Recorded, Mixed and Produced by Alain Johannes at 11AD
6 Days From Tomorrow
It’s amazing how the music industry moves on nowadays; careers tend to be a bit more slow-burning than meteoric in these less-stellar times . Blues Funeral marks the solo return of an artist whose last singularly-released album was in 2004. Eight years ago. To put this into some light-hearted perspective:
The Beatles played their last Hamburg shows as willing
R’n'R apprentices in December 1962; in December 1970 Paul McCartney
files a suit to dissolve the band’s contractual obligations
and begins the official end of one of the most successful and culture-altering
Of course it’s impossible to talk about anything Mark Lanegan is involved in without mentioning his voice. It certainly has to be said that giving up the ciggies has worked miracles on his vocal chords – the rumble’s still there but the edges are softer and the range doesn’t feel like quite so much work at the lower and higher ends as it did on Bubblegum. This also means that he can channel this apparent ease of delivery into imposing himself on his songs more than ever.
I mentioned Sergio Leone in my review of the Gravedigger’s Song 7?, and with good reason. Leone had a trick up his sleeve with regard to sound design in his films (much-copied since), which was to overemphasise the sound of gunshot – pistols were overdubbed with shotguns, shotguns overdubbed with rifles, and cannons like (to quote film historian Sir Christopher Frayling, although he may have been exaggerating) nuclear blasts. Also, every ricochet made a noise; even those that bounced off the sand. This approach hasn’t been lost on a certain Leone fan and subject of this review who once appeared on his own messageboard and paraphrased a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales that has since passed into legend: and it’s testament to producer and co-conspirator Alain Johannes that the music that backs each song follows this simple yet effective rule where everything is that little bit punchier and forthright than normal, but having everything doing this all at once makes the end result feel absolutely natural and can only leave anyone listening salivating at the thought of what’s going to happen to this set on stage. The Leone connection is stretched that little bit further to allow room for St Louis Elegy, a quiet epic that takes in the huge panoramas and inches-away closeups that Ennio Morricone soundtracked so well and brings it all bang up to date.
Much has been made of a more electronic direction with Blues Funeral, and this is certainly the case with a couple of songs. Ode To Sad Disco will come as a huge surprise to fans both old and recent, its driving electronica coming from a few decades ago when synthesizers resembled antique telephone exchanges and the zeitgeist was of pushing the boundaries of independent music. If ever there was proof required of someone taking himself right out of his comfort zone and presenting a whole new facet of his work and influences, this is the most startling evidence of it that I have ever heard. And he’s so comfortable with it – the drum patterns and long, floating synth chords are so evocative of when New Order found their feet, with Mark’s gentle melody patterns over the top of that reminiscent of a mid-swagger Ian McCulloch, with Tiny Grain Of Truth sublimely closing the album in a laid-back manner of Mac’s own electronic Electrafixion project. The electronics remain switched on in a more restrained but no less essential manner on the following track. There’s no two ways about it, Phantasmagoria Blues is a staggering breakup song and such a disarmingly emotional song that it’s physically draining to experience; the deceptive gentleness of delivery pulls you in to pay more attention, and it’s very difficult to pull oneself away from.
These two successful experiments are neatly bookended by a brace of tracks that exemplify why the “Band” suffix was added to Mark Lanegan’s name. Both Riot In My House and Quiver Syndrome rock out with a swagger of such ease that his friends and co-workers from other bands must both enjoy performing and also wish that they could do this so readily. The latter is especially well-placed, having the most fun song appear after the saddest is a good move and exemplifies the skill of emotionally ordering the running of an album, an artform becoming sadly lost in an increasingly shuffling industry.
Lyrically, the old imagery is still there in force for the most part. Tales of hardship and loss married to visions of a grand apocalypse still figure strongly from a man adept at telling his story but burying the more personal details under a flurry of beautifully structured Blood and Thunder pulpetry; because much as he loves to sing, and as much as he writes about what he knows, the general rule of thumb is that very little of what he knows has anything to do with the rest of us. But there are moments where these walls, meticulously created over many years, are thinner in places than before. Harborview Hospital especially switches often between allegory and stark reality to discomforting effect, the mood lightened by more synthesized backing and the vaguest background hints of old Peter Hook basslines providing a celestial rather than infernal outlook.
This really is one of those albums that comes around
so rarely as to be almost completely unique. Mark Lanegan has skirted
around fame in the shadows of his friends and colleagues (and, it
has to be said, also his own), Blues Funeral should be the record
that not only puts him up in the pantheon occupied by his peers, but
way above that. Certainly the most focused album of his long career,
it’s a completely logical step from his previous work (indeed,
echoes of both Hit The City b-sides can be heard here in the nods
to Mud Pink Skag in Quiver Syndrome‘s robotic beat and Deep
Black Vanishing Train‘s beautiful mellotron expansion of Mirrored)
and a huge leap in front of anything else that has been released in
a very long time. It’s telling that the experiments in sound
all feel absolutely at home as part of Lanegan’s canon, there
is nothing here that could alienate any of his existing fanbase, only
draw them in closer as new listeners are drawn in from all corners
depending on which song here grabs them first. Blues Funeral is, despite
the title, a joyous album that deserves to be heard by everyone. Utterly,
unequivocally essential. Anyone who reads the above stream-of-consciousness
drivel that I’ve just parked on the screen while I listen to
the album from start to finish for the first time only needs to read
that one preceding sentence.
All Around Records
Saturday, February 4, 2012
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.
A mighty voice of formidably expressive multitudes,
here given room to roar.
Review: Mark Lanegan - Blues Funeral
If Death were a man of blood and bone, romantic notions would lead a wager that he'd have a voice akin to Mark Lanegan's - hypnotically magnetic, a whiskey-in-the-ashtray grit with supernatural depth.
"I hear the winter will cut you quick," Lanegan measures in a slow growl on St. Louis Elegy, a handful of songs into Blues Funeral, his seventh solo album. "If tears were liquor, I'd have drunk myself sick." The clarity in the moment of his spiritual crossing is a troubled awakening, an usher into final, undesired territories: "Here I am earthly bound / said Hallelujah, I'm going down / and the River Jordan is deep and wide /I think I see forever across on the other side".
Blues Funeralis set for release on February 6th via 4AD, and is Lanegan's first solo output since 2004's excellent Bubblegum. Naturally, he's been quite active in the interim, with stints in and with Queens Of The Stone Age, The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, Soulsavers, Isobel Campbell and beyond keeping his name - and talents - fresh in our minds. Recorded with Queens of The Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures/Eleven multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes at his 11AD studios in Hollywood, CA, Blues Funeral features appearances from numerous friends and collaborators including Jack Irons (Eleven, Pearl Jam), Greg Dulli (Gutter Twins), Josh Homme (Queens of The Stone Age) and, of course, the inimitable Johannes.
While never quite stepping out from under the shroud of lonely-campfire isolation, the album runs a stylistic gamut, leaping between ominous groove-rock and 80s synth-melancholia with casual confidence and varying influence. The night-drive anthem of Grey Goes Black leans on an eerie early Jonny Greenwood riff, enjoying an emotive solo before a drum machine supplants the kit with an understated yet urgent breakbeat.
A vital component of the man's magic is in his unique vocal and timing arrangements, accentuation anomalies within his gravel-worn leather baritone. Like the onset of a powerful psychedelic, Phantasmagoria Blues sets on the regrets and hangups of the introspectively inclined, a funereal reflection on lost hopes and shortcomings. It's a fitting accompaniment to Leviathan's slow-marching burial hymn. "I lay my guns on the table," he admits, before confiding that the hangman is on his trail. It's in the end where the hypnosis takes effect, however, with four vocal parts overlapping, and at least three voices in the mix. We hear Mark, of course, as well as Johannes and legendary producer Chris Goss.
The guitar kicks into gear on Riot In My House, delivering a welcome uptempo change to an otherwise true-to-title album. Chaos is blossoming, ferocious dogs are prowling, and Josh Hommes' guitar serves a squealing counter to Mark's vocal. It comes unleashed after the two-minute mark, leading the charge into a downright riotous groove over handclaps and pounding high-note keys that would do Natasha Shneider proud.
Ode To Sad Disco leaps with both feet into Erasure territory - yes, the Chains of Love Erasure - with full 80s synth keys, drum machines and a breezy near-falsetto (about children losing their minds) that's just about the last thing we'd expect from this particular grey wolf. But Blues Funeral certainly confirms Lanegan's unpredictability, as well as his knack for flashing chameleon colors across the style spectrum. Look to Harborview Hospital for further evidence, where heavily effects-laden guitars lead Lanegan through programmed drums and a heartbeat throb into a feeling of ethereal purgatory, akin to that found at the apex of Puscifer's Oceans.
But Quiver Syndrome sets us right again, a proper Rock jam with a buzzing lead and snapping percussion that could've qualified it for inclusion on QOTSA's Songs For The Deaf. Sexy, strutting and nightmarishly dangerous on a juggernaut groove with psychedelic frills, it encompasses everything the desert gods do best - and is that Homme we hear again on the "oooh" backups?
Lanegan's quality consistency leads us confidently through a spectral variety of sound that few other artists can convincingly achieve. His haunted romance and midnight hymns have reached new heights on Blues Funeral, and we're happily chasing the hearse down that old dirt road, once again.
CraveOnline Rating: 9.5 out of 10
From Tone Audio
Blues Funeral Beggars Banquet LP and CD
“If tears were liquor/I would’ve drunk myself to death,”
confesses a troubled Mark Lanegan on the allegorical “St. Louis
Elegy,” a haunting organ-laced ballad that stands in as the
second cousin to the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”
and reinforces the afflicted moods coursing through Blues Funeral.
Spectacularly diverse and consistently impressive, the vocalist’s
first studio album in more than seven years arrives after several
From Seattle Weekly Blog
No Surprise, Mark Lanegan's Blues Funeral Is A Drag
Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD)
Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
"We may as well be dressed in black, standing by a pile of dirt next to a grave, about to toss a flower onto a wooden casket." - Aoife Barry on Blues Funeral, the new Mark Lanegan Band album.
What a voice Mark Lanegan has: tough like an old boot, rough like callouses. Like each line on an elderly man's face, there's a story in every one of his throaty notes, a story that has depths most men like to leave unplumbed.
For a man who's famously reticent to embrace the limelight, he has played a solid and important role in American independent rock music since the 1980s. Leader of grunge heroes Screaming Trees, player with Queens of the Stone Age and the Gutter Twins, contributor to Soulsavers, singer alongside Belle & Sebastian's Isobel Campbell. At the helm of the Mark Lanegan Band on this album, he's at home: on his own, but backed when needed by musicians including Josh Homme, Greg Dulli and Jack Irons.
Blues Funeral is his first release since 2004's Bubblegum. Recorded in Hollywood, California with Alain Johannes, it opens with the stomping Gravedigger's Song and its pulsing guitar and creepy lyrics. "I've been dreaming of you / and the taste of your love so sweet, honest it's true," he half-snarls. Only Lanegan is capable of writing a song that's as threatening as it is romantic, with its talk of crows flying over head and shovels six feet down.
There's a constant preoccupation with darkness on this album, which, knowing his previous work and life story, is no surprise. "I hear the winter will cut you quick," he informs us on St Louis Elegy. "If tears were liquor, I'd have drunk myself sick." He's a great man for uncomfortable imagery: a house of cards, a tower of stones, a diamond-headed serpent, children losing their mind (Ode to Sad Disco). Things that are just pretending to be something else, images that make you feel a shiver of strangeness. "I lay my guns on the table," he admits in Leviathan, before confiding in us that a hangman is following him.
Riot in My House brings us even more forceful imagery: death's metal broom; battlelines; fearless ferocious dogs. Musically, it's Queens of the Stone Age territory, with rasping guitar solos that remind us of Lanegan's past. But every time he brings us close to this past, he reminds us that he is not stuck in it, such as when he combines disco beats and slide guitar in the opening to Ode to Sad Disco (which, quite literally, is a sad disco song).
When he sings of literal blackness (Grey Goes Black), it feels like familiar territory, but the drum machine is a clever touch, and demonstrates perhaps the influence of his work with Soulsavers and Gutter Twins. It's through touches like this that Lanegan brings his music forward, while still retaining the grungey spirit that made him adored in the first place. He is able to straddle these two worlds – past and present - with ease.
Phantasmagoria Blues is the closest we get to a 'love' song, but it's a twisted love we find here. "Do you hear the tolling bells that ring down from above?" Lanegan asks a woman called 'Jane'. Their love is torn and tattered, bruised and beaten; there is talk of razorblades and crying on piers. Here, he is a corrupt, tortured ghost, roaming a seafront town with a battered heart.
It is the religious imagery that is most striking on this album. "Lord now the rain done come/muddy water rising up," he moans on Bleeding Bloody Water, warning moments later of a "celestial flood". Jesus appears in St Louis Elegy, before Lanegan announces: "Here I am earthly bound/ said Hallelujah I'm going down/ and the River Jordan is deep and wide". Is this redemption he is singing of, or has he crossed over to another spiritual plane?
The religious imagery continues in Harborview Hospital , where we find more electronic beats, and talk of Sisters of Mercy, Agnes Dei, and devils ascending on crystal wings. It's like a song created by a depressed New Order, with its talk of being down in the dirt, where "they say it doesn't hurt".
Funeral Blues lives up to its name – there is nary a light moment here. We may as well be dressed in black, standing by a pile of dirt next to a grave, about to toss a flower onto a wooden casket. But curiously, it's not depressing. It's somehow vital, energising, with its weird, frightening imagery, religious elements and wounded, mysterious characters. Like Lanegan himself, this album has its secrets. It doesn't reveal itself to us easily, and each listen is a little revelation.
Blues Funeral is out on February 3rd on LP, CD & download. Mark Lanegan Band play The Academy on March 7th.
POP! Stereo Reviews
Mark Lanegan Has a Blues Funeral
Now known as The Mark Lanegan Band, Lanegan and his cohorts have created a record that's dark, heavy and even a bit electronic. This, ladies and gentleman, isn't the Screaming Trees. Blues Funeral is amazing. Lanegan's voice is deep, raspy, spot on and it carries the album through each of the songs here. Lanegan makes this a Blues Funeral by creating a dingy, moody atmosphere with nothing but his pipes. When you throw in the garagey guitars, raw drums, and what sounds like analogue recording equipment the album sounds like something the White Stripes always hoped to record.
Then there are the electronics. The Mark Lanegan Band occasionally takes a sharp right turn and rather then head to the bar loaded on whiskey, they head to the club. The results are broody throbbing synthpop songs that sound so far away from a Blues Funeral they might just have you scratching your head. If the songs weren't so darn good that would be justified, but they're catchy, deep, and very well done. I admit, I was surprised but in all the best ways.
Blues Funeral is an awesome album and shows that Lanegan
and his band are still in their prime. This record is just about perfect.
Blues Funeral is the sort of record that helps you forget that this
guy was once the frontrunner of the late grunge movement. It's moody,
weighty, filled with awesome songs that will move you in one way or
another be it the club or the bar.
The Grunge Report.net
GRUNGEREPORT.NET REVIEW OF MARK LANEGAN’S BLUES
Basically as long as I’ve been a Mark Lanegan/Screaming Trees fan I’ve been waiting for him to followup his masterpiece Bubblegum, and the time has finally come! No more side project distractions! Blues Funeral comes out on February 6th to kick off what is expected to be a golden year for Grunge, here is my review of the album.
“The Gravedigger’s Song” really is the perfect opener and makes more sense in the context of being an album opener rather than it does as a standalone single. It builds and builds, it ups the anticipation for the rest of the album.
“Bleeding Muddy Water” sounds a bit like Mark’s work with Soulsavers, very soulful with some religious lyrics. There is a lot of religious imagery on the album. My favorite lyric to this song is, “you’re the bullet, bullet and the gun, muddy water, you’re heaven’s son.”
“Gray Goes Black” sounds a lot like “Burning Jacob’s Ladder,” which didn’t make the album. The vibe here is a little lighter than Burning Jacob’s Ladder though, especially the rhythm. It reminded me a bit of the Screaming Trees too.
“Quiver Syndrome” is a very upbeat rocker and it is one of my favorites on the album. It has a very textured and layered sounding. The verses are reminiscent of Mark’s work with Queens of the Stone Age a bit, but there is a sweet poppy riff with some harmonies over it that make it a bit different.
“Riot In My House” reminds me of the Screaming Trees, Bubblegum, and Queens of the Stone Age. It has that same dark rhythm that Bubblegum had but the guitar riff is all Josh Homme (who plays on the song reportedly). The lyrics are also fantastic, “there’s a riot in my house, chaos is blossoming, run and hide little mouse, go on and get yourself together, the burn-outs buy the score, strung out in metal cages.” While other Grunge era artists may soften in their old age lyrically, Lanegan just gets darker.
“Harborview Hospital” is very synth heavy and has kind of a dreamy sound, it is a new type of sound for Lanegan. It’s a creepy dance song, if that makes any sense. “Ode To Sad Disco” also has a similar driving beat with melodic guitar playing mixed in. Mark’s melody is really soothing here. “St. Louis Elegy” is a pure blues song. “Leviathan” sounds like an evil Beatles song, really cool vocal layering with Lanegan and Chris Goss. “Tiny Grain of Truth” has a big time 90’s vibe, some of the guitar work actually reminds me of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness a bit, on some of the epic songs on that album (like Porcelina of the Vast Oceans).
Overall this is a great album, it is exactly what Mark Lanegan fans have been waiting for. It has Lanegan’s blues influences like always, but with a new sense of groove on many of the songs that have never been heard before on Lanegan’s previous work. Alain Johannes did a great job and continues to be a great help to Grunge musicians. When that dude is in the room, you know good shit is being made.
My favorite Mark Lanegan Band album is Bubblegum, and I’m not quite sure that Blues Funeral has passed it up yet. In time I think it could, but damn Bubblegum is good! Blues Funeral will grow on you with each listen.
Favorite Songs: Ode To Sad Disco, Riot In My House, Quiver Syndrome, Bleeding Muddy Water
The Line of Best Fit
Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
It’s been seven years since Mark Lanegan‘s last solo album, 2004's much-praised Bubblegum. This time, the extended delay wasn’t caused by the kind of self-destructive pursuits that have derailed Lanegan in the past. Rather, he’s been distracted by his serial duties as a guest vocalist. As well as being an integral part of the extended Queens of the Stone Age posse, Lanegan’s established a reputation as the go-to guy for a drop of authentically grizzled Americana menace on recordings by Country-trekking Isobel Campbell, electronic producer duo Soulsavers, and many, many others.
The hectic work schedule appears to have boosted Lanegan’s creative energies. A near-perfect culmination of ideas evident in past solo outings, Blues Funeral proves Lanegan’s ready to step up from cult acclaim-cultivating chronicler of hard living to the rarefied realm of dark side-dwelling songcraft occupied by the likes of Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Thematically, not that much has changed. Even in the drug-damaged terrain of grunge era Washington State, Lanegan’s substance abuse stood out, and the hard times – difficult upbringing, jail stints, mountains of narcotics – endured by the now clean, LA-based vocalist continue to inform his songwriting. Whilst seemingly unpicking broken human relationships, it doesn’t take much interpretative skill to figure out that likes of ’Gravedigger’s Song’ – powered by an ominous churn akin to a ghost train speeding towards the none-more-black heart of a particularly spooky night – and the haunted ‘Bleeding Muddy Water’ actually address a difficult break-up with Class As.
Although the building materials are largely familiar, the finished constructs are grander than ever before. As strong as Field Songs (2001) and Bubblegum were, their single-mindedly nocturnal pursuit of the essence of drug-addled blues occasionally risked sliding into repetitive, by-the-numbers world-weariness, with weaker tracks seemingly cut on stolen energy in between spells of slumber.
Blues Funeral emits a real spark of enduring inspiration. Lanegan and producer (and fellow QOTSA alumni) Alain Johannes, assisted by such guests as drummer Jack Irons, Josh Homme and Greg Dulli, manage to keep the proceedings sparse but also richly textured and deeply atmospheric. The pace is predominantly stately, but far from sleepy. The contemplative numbers, such as ‘St. Louis Elegy’, moaning and sighing like a theme tune to a Western populated by ghosts, throb with majestic grandeur. The subtly electronic foundations of the excellent ‘Ode to Sad Disco’ and deceptively upbeat ‘Grey Turns Black’ nod towards Neu!, Harmonia and other German past masters of the ‘motorik’ groove, suggesting Lanegan’s buried the obsession with the Blues that’s powered his solo career up until now. The few out-and-out rockers threaten to kick the door off its hinges.
Lanegan’s in brilliant voice throughout, his tobacco-scorched subterranean baritone rumble managing the Tom Waitsian feat of sounding damaged beyond repair whilst remaining a powerful and versatile instrument. In lesser hands, the outbreaks of regret, sorrow and religious imaginary that populate the lyric sheet could well crash-land into unintentional self-parody, but Lanegan packs enough gravitas to make couplets à la “if tears were liquor/I’d have drunk myself sick” sound profound enough for inclusion in the Great Book of Blues Wisdom.
Mark Lanegan is like a liquor-soaked deity, down in
the silt, keeping celestial and scrambling for faith.