Reviews for Bubblegum

From Spendid Ezine:

If his stint in Queens of the Stone Age has taught Mark Lanegan anything, it's that life is a lot more tolerable when you're wandering through it stinking of sin and seeing double. His tattered wail has always hinted at a man who's seen more than his share of fucked-up situations, and has, more or less, escaped them with a few broken bones and a deeply scarred psyche. He has never sounded more desperate than he does traipsing through Bubblegum's dark alleys -- and strangely, it's that superego-addled despondency that makes this his most compelling, not to mention complete, work to date.

Lanegan's voice has been distilled to perfection -- his bourbon-ravaged pipes are tailor-made for Bubblegum's languid tales of drugs, sex and salvation. It's all his worst junkie desires come to life, from the greasy stomp of "Sideways in Reverse" to the moribund and reflective "One Hundred Days" and loved-to-death lament "Come to Me". Even a host of top-gun guest stars (Greg Dulli, Izzy and Duff from G'n'R, QOTSA's Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, PJ Harvey) don't detract from the hunger and conviction of Lanegan's performance.

After a succession of attempts, Lanegan has finally assembled a band with sufficient dexterity to bring the dejection of his desires alive through song. "Methamphetamine Blues" is pure damnation thunder, Lanegan wailing over an army of clip-shorn beats culled from the killing floor of a slaughterhouse, and the woozy, bloozy "When Your Number is Up" is Bobby Bland's "Dreamer" after a yearlong LSD-and-whiskey binge. "Hit the City" and "Come to Me", his collaborations with PJ Harvey, sound frightfully natural, her primordial grace perfectly balancing his tattered, nicotine-stained romanticism. Most potent (and harrowing) of the lot is "Can't Come Down", a grainy addict's rumination that sounds as if Lanegan made a deal with the devil to secure its tin-can-on-a-string rhythms and burning angel guitar lines.

Lanegan isn't quite the storyteller than Tom Waits is, but in terms of attitude and timbre, he's the only performer who even comes close to combing the depths of his wry, boozified genius -- and like Waits, he gives us the distinct feeling that he'd just as soon kick the living shit out of you as talk to you. The difference between Lanegan and most performers of his ilk is that you know he has lived life at the bottom end, so to hear him speak of atrocity, pain and craving is to hear it from the horse's mouth.

Statements like "Would you be ashamed if I shake like I'm dying?" (from "Wedding Dress") may sound perplexing, but once you wrap your head around Lanegan's tainted worldview you'll realize that he spits and roars to keep his inner demons at bay, if only to drink his sorrows away another day. He's reached the zenith of his career; let's just hope he sticks around long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

-- Jason Jackowiak


First off, don't worry about that Weird Chill. Lanegan's earlier odds & sods EP was just that, and the recordings that they were culled from are stronger without 'em. Bubblegum runs the gamut of Lanegan's loves, from Beefheart/Watsian howlers, to silkily depressing ballads, to QOTSA robot-rock pounders, with some duets thrown in to boot (yay for PJ Harvey!). Somehow all that variation makes for Lanegan's most consistently listenable solo release to date. That there's some mighty chewy bubblegum. - jeremy

From Pitchfork:

That Charles Bukowski has been dead for over 10 years now is almost hard to believe-- partially because he's had more posthumous work hit the shelves than anybody this side of Tupac, but more so because of the enormous influence he continues to exert over contemporary poets and lyricists. I think it's safe to speculate that former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan has spent his share of time on a barstool, between the pages of the Black Sparrow Press.
But Lanegan is no Chinaski-come-lately, and he's got the voice to prove it. As scratchy as a three-day beard yet as supple and pliable as moccasin leather, Lanegan's voice has evolved into a remarkable instrument, one that couldn't have been earned by easy living. It's a voice that redeems him a lot of sins, which is fortuitous because on Bubblegum his songs weave precariously between heartfelt depictions of the seedy life and hardboiled cliche.
On previous solo albums, like 1998's Scraps at Midnight or 2001's masterful Field Songs, Lanegan explored various pre-rock forms like blues, gospel and country to mesmerizing effect. But his recent cameo with Queens of the Stone Age seems to have revived his tooth for the harder stuff, so with the help of guests like Greg Dulli, Dean Ween, Stone Agers Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, and, yes, Izzy friggin' Stradlin, Bubblegum features a partial return to Lanegan's grungier days of yore. The seamy din generated by this revolving ensemble provides a well-matched backdrop for the relentless parade of petty violence, drug deals gone sour, and squalid love affairs portrayed in these songs. That's not to say that the whole thing comes off perfectly. Noisier tracks like "Can't Come Down" or the clanking "Methamphetamine Blues" sound undigested and vaguely dated-- almost as though they were written for Girls Against Boys' Freak*On*Ica album, which is about as succinct a definition of "misfire" as you could want. "Methamphetamine Blues" is particularly rough, as Lanegan briefly goes Ian Astbury on us, calling out to his female back-up singers, "Rollin' children, keep on rollin'." (They respond by calling him "daddy.") I keep waiting for him to belt out, "C'mon li'l sister!" here, but alas, he leaves me hanging.
Fortunately, these occasional clunkers are more than outnumbered by the album's highlights, which include a pair of smoldering duets with PJ Harvey-- "Hit the City" and "Come to Me"-- either of which could slip unnoticed as a bonus track onto Uh Huh Her. It's also hard to not be delighted by "Sideways in Reverse" and "Driving Death Valley Blues", Lanegan's most bare-knuckled rockers since the demise of his former band. Additionally, he has few peers, particularly in his age bracket, when it comes to tackling moody, blues-infused numbers like the opening "When Your Number Isn't Up" or the Tom Waits-ish "Like Little Willie John".
Throughout Bubblegum, Lanegan proves himself adroit at navigating the back alleys of Babylon, but after the record's umpteenth reference to loaded shotguns, '73 Buicks, and goin' cold turkey, one can't help but think he might eventually want to take a stab at some new material. So far, his voice has proven to be well-suited for whatever use he has put it to; hopefully next time he strays a little further afield to better stretch its limits.

From Onion AV Club:

Mark Lanegan Band
Bubblegum (Buy It!)
(Beggars Banquet)

In spite of his singularly warm, husky voice, Mark Lanegan has remained a side-note to bigger things. His occasionally great Seattle band Screaming Trees never rose anywhere near Nirvana's heights, scoring only a minor hit ("Nearly Lost You") before fading away, like so many others, into post-grunge invisibility and an eventual breakup. Throughout the group's existence, Lanegan regularly stepped away to record moody, stripped-down solo material, nodding toward notions of blues and folk on albums which, while accomplished, never really cried out for attention. In the past couple of years, Lanegan inadvertently found some fame as an adjunct Queens Of The Stone Age member, contributing vocals to Songs For The Deaf and even touring, joining the band for just a couple of songs at each show. That experience, limited as it seems, may have jump-started his work.

Bubblegum, Lanegan's sixth solo album, is the first to bear the word "band" after his name. And, while the players he's gathered hardly seem like a permanent lineup, they do provide enough of a sonic shakeup to render the not-quite name-change true: Unlike the rest of Lanegan's catalog, Bubblegum feels like the work of more than just one or two people. By adding brawn, he's lost some of his omnipresent dusty resignation. While not the huge leap from his past that its misleading title might imply, Bubblegum finally finds Lanegan exploring the traverse between rocking flannel enthusiast and down-and-out Americana-ist.

A look at the motley band (or perhaps "band") that helps shepherd Lanegan to his new position explains the album's sound: His Queens Of The Stone Age mates, particularly Josh Homme, help him flex muscles that had gone unused, pushing "Driving Death Valley Blues" and "Methamphetamine Blues" into places they couldn't have otherwise gone. Conversely, PJ Harvey shows up to play the foil on the hazy, delicate "Come To Me." (Elsewhere, former Guns N' Roses slingers Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin make no noticeable mark.) Left to his own devices, Lanegan creates some memorable death-and-drug songs: "When Your Number Isn't Up" burns slowly, nodding a bit toward Tom Waits. While the guests push and pull Lanegan in different directions, Bubblegum's songs never lose him in the translation. He'd do well to shake it up every time. -Josh Modell

Crud Review:

Rock 'n' roll ain't always about getting the party started. Sometimes, with some people, it's all only about keeping it going. Mark Lanegan, ex-frontman with oft-forgotten grunge greats Screaming Trees, has matured into exactly one of those people, going by the evidence creaking and croaking and groaning and grinding out of my working left headphone as I write this. And he's not alone. This is not the same Mark Lanegan that recorded his last 'Field Songs' longplayer, all lone dusty porch blues. Nor is it the same Mark Lanegan that led Screaming Trees through their introverted fuzz pedal workouts. You could say it's somewhere in between, which it is, but that's not quite right either. This is the Mark Lanegan that was knocked off said porch with a well-meaning right-hook from an intoxicating bad influence and then fought back with some of the most exciting material of his life. The Mark Lanegan who was sucked whole into the ungovernable QOTSA cooperative. And it shows.

It'd be easy to view this record in competition, squaring up to Josh Hommes' Desert Sessions and comparing performance credits - but it makes much more sense to see it as a compliment, an integral part of an interchangeable collective that's rapidly becoming a genre unto itself. And anyway, if talking guestlist girth 'Bubblegum' would probably win. Nick Oliveri and Josh Homme feature throughout in varied roles, Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli (on the not entirely unlike the Twilight Singers 'Methamphetamine Blues'), Ween's Dean Ween, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan (both on the out-of-character-mellow blues lullaby 'Strange Religion'), Masters of Reality's Chris Goss (playing and producing) and of course PJ Harvey all feature as shifting parts of the ensemble. But with one notable exception, and in spite of giving the record one hell of a backbone, they're all staffing one man's fantasy and contribute fairly anonymously.

But PJ Harvey, still arguably one of the most vital, harsh, sexy and abundant forces of nature on the face of the planet, is on top here - metaphorically, commandingly, probably physically. But her two tracks, highlights here undoubtedly, work in such a way that you can't help but compliment them as a couple rather than just bask in her haze. Her collaborations are always reactionary pieces of work, she never walks off with full honours. 'Hit The City' is a dense, shimmering mirage; thick, repetitive and masterful, Velvet Underground do Kyuss type behaviour, her vocals hypnotising, circling his like a vulture. 'Come To Me' is quite something else though; creeping, seductive, irreversibly intoxicating trip-rock, partially evoking the Nick Cave 'n' Kylie masterpiece 'Where The Wild Roses Grow'.

Elsewhere, on 'Driving Death Valley Blues' and the feedback sodden 'Can't Come Down', he turns a few tricks he learnt during his stint in the Queens, 'Morning Glory Wine' and 'Like Little Willie John' see him edging back onto the porch and 'Sideways In Reverse' and 'Head' see him confidently straddle his entire career with both feet to the floor. We were unaware that this is his sixth solo record, not to mention all extra-curricular activity. Recognition is surely long, long overdue.

Stylus Magazine:

Funny thing, bubblegum: chew it up, blow it up, spit it out-it'll take everything you can throw at it, and then some. It's difficult to avoid reading something into this choice of title for Mark Lanegan's latest solo album (his 6th, but his first credited to the 'Mark Lanegan Band'). Between his ostensible day jobs singing for The Screaming Trees and occasional vocals on QOTSA albums, Lanegan has pursued a parallel career wherein he's proven himself to be one of the most talented extant rock vocalists. His voice is pure smoke; sometimes ephemeral, at others smoldering and cancerous, his explorations of the darker sides of folk and country have produced a number of thrillingly authentic and frequently startling albums. Yet, until now, Lanegan has been happy to rock all day and ruminate all night: Bubblegum is his first attempt to produce a fusion of his two worlds (after the also excellent EP Here Comes That Weird Chill). It is, to be frank, one of the most remarkable and forward-looking rock albums that you will hear all year, and testament to Lanegan's ability to take desolate lyrics and fashion beautiful, redemptive tunes around them. This is the album that Lanegan always seemed about to make; forgive him his tardiness, and dive right in.

First up we have "When Your Number Is Up", a truly chilling song. It begins with the kind of naïve piano melody that lulls the listener into the false sense of expectation that we're going to get a traditional Mark torch song-then a desolate drumbeat worthy of Iggy Pop circa "Nightclubbing" lurches into view, and it's plain that Lanegan's using a whole new palette. On this track Lanegan's voice is absolutely sublime: it's rare for me to remark on phrasing and accentuation in a rock track, but he approaches the studied perception of Ol' Blue Eyes himself. The arrangement is superb, too; strangled guitar, low organ tones and the aforementioned drums plodding behind Mark as he confidently works his way through a tale of death and disgust. "Did they call for the night porter? / And smell the blood, blood running warm? / Well I've been waiting at this frozen border / So close you could hit it with a stone". It's the kind of so-honest-it-hurts song that I could listen to forever, and establishes an extremely high watermark for the album-which is quickly reciprocated by the next track "Hit The City". A duet-of sorts-between Lanegan and PJ Harvey, it's a driving, fuzzy track that offers the first glance of the new musical direction that Mark is pursuing; obviously, this time, he didn't leave all of the effects pedals over at Josh Homme's house the last time he was over. Bizarrely, it has Nick Oliveri playing drums. And it rocks. Hugely. Go figure.

These first two tracks establish the pattern for the rest of the album; a beautifully stripped-down ballad here, a scathing stoner-rock epic there. It sounds like the album that Lanegan shoulda, coulda, woulda made after the Screaming Trees split, if only all the players had been around at the time. Here, his jigsaw box is full of other peoples' pieces: Izzy and Duff from Guns n'Roses; Greg Dulli, the aforementioned PJ, Homme and Oliveri. Yet there's no forcing together of pictures; it's a real band, even though the list of players makes it sound like a collective. It's Mark's band, and he's never sounded more in control. Like he says on "Methamphetamine Blues" (a roughly coruscating song with a main riff that you could swear was powerful enough to rip the hair cells from your inner ear): "I'm rolling just to keep on rolling". "You just keep going…" was Lanegan's mantra for the 90s as his friends Kurt Cobain and Jeffrey Pierce of The Gun Club didn't make it out. Lanegan did, and this album is a powerful reminder that we should be thankful.

CD Times:

This is an epic album, 15 tracks, fifty minutes of music and a cast of guest stars that would put 'The Simpsons' to shame. 'The Mark Lanegan Band' this time consists of such luminaries as PJ Harvey, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan as well as the usual partners in crime, Chris Goss, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri from 'Masters Of Reality' and 'Queens of the Stone Age' respectively. There's something of a collective going on here and in many ways The Mark Lanegan Band can be seen as a continuation of the collective approach favored by QOTSA. It goes without saying of your a fan of QOTSA then you should waste no time familiarizing yourself with the back catalogue of Mark Lanegan. You absolutely should also have a listen to 'Screaming Trees', of course, and then round the whole thing off with getting hold of some of 'Masters of Reality's early work. Your ears will love you for it.

So, then, 'Bubblegum' and with Lanegan and his massive band you'd expect something of a patchy affair. Well, it is and it isn't is the not so easy answer. Make no mistake, this is Lanegan's album; his throaty, seductive low growl is high in the mix and his melancholy tales of bad drugs, dirty sex, love, death and the whole shebang slide of his tongue in the same way hot butter slides off a knife. This is an album driven by the vocal and, as such, it's mainly a very mellow, laid-back affair. The undercurrent of menace present in Lanegan's voice is highlighted by the music, which for the most part is deep, low, distorted bass and guitar that makes up most of the songs. The only real problem with it is it's sheer length. Out of the fifteen songs on here, about ten are instant classics and the rest are fillers. 'Come To Me' is a case in point. Despite the contribution from PJ Harvey, it's a bit underwhelming and you'll find your attention wandering with this one and a few others, such as 'Like Little Willie John'. There's nothing wrong with these songs, and they might well be growers, but they seem a bit by the numbers, which is a shame, as a lot of the album sounds quite experimental.

One such song, 'In The City' is a killer track and really should have opened the album. Harvey's vocal here shadows Lanegan's growl and adds a whole new dimension to Lanegan's approach. It's a dark, strange acid tinged trip into insanity that kicks you in the head. Its main riff is a truncated horribly distorted bass that sounds as though it's trying to escape from some primordial quagmire. Add electronic drums and you have a seriously disturbing song. Lanegan and Harvey back each other's vocals and it sounds wonderfully haunting. Another stand out is 'Head', which adds a synthesizer riff to a loose, bluesy electric guitar riff and the whole package sounds like something the Rolling Stones would have been proud to add to 'Goats Head Soup'. It's immediately followed by 'Driving Death Valley Blues' which is a bulldozer of a song that has shades of industrial rock; all barely recognizable guitars and a beat that pounds away like John Homes on Viagra.

More melancholy is 'One Hundred Days' which is classic Lanegan; a slow tale of loss and regret with a beatiful melody and chorus. Perfect for late nights, whisky and regrets. 'Bombed' is another example of how things should be done. It's short, simple, bittersweet and quite lovely. 'Memphatamine Blues' still sounds great and fits in with the album as well as it did with the EP that came out last year and is reviewed here. It's a shame that the excellent 'Message To Mine' has been left off the album, but it does make the purchase of the EP something of a necessity and every song on that little disc is both a sinner and a winner.

'Bubblegum', on the whole, is something of a flawed classic. When it's good it's excellent, but there's one too many fillers to make it a perfect album. It's still one of the strongest albums released for quite a while. Slipping onto the shelves with hardly a hint of hype and that's OK, this is one album that shouldn't need it for it'll sell by word of mouth for years to come.


Mark Lanegan likes drugs. He barely sings about anything else; he also seems to hate them too. The one-time Screaming Tree is stuck between a rock and a hard place if you like, wailing about "cold turkey", not being able to come down, about being out of control... One minute he's recounting the listlessness and pain of being without a fix - and you feel agitated with him, the next you're sharing a dirty but ultimately soothing rush with the old bugger, and you find yourself not wanting to be anywhere else. This is no government health warning.

Of course, anyone who's been to sixth form college can testify, listening to someone recount tales of getting off their twat is about as tedious a time as you can spend, but Lanegan's lyrics are poetic, well thought out and devastatingly honest, making this more a serious artistic account than some braggadocio bullshit. And then add to that the fact the music is just fantastic; 'Bubblegum' is a strung out, weird record that grows with each listen, and you will find yourself absorbing it with consistently intensifying fervour.

Lanegan gets by with a little help from his friends, and there are plenty of friends on this record. PJ Harvey pops up on two of the most majestic tracks ('Hit the City' and 'Come to Me'), plus Izzy and Duff, former Guns and Roses chums feature on backing vocals ('Strange Religion'). Then of course there are his old Queens of the Stone Age chums, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri popping up here and there (how weird is it that Homme seems to be held in higher esteem than Lanegan these days? Mark Lanegan is the fucking daddy!)

So what of the songs?

'When Your Number isn't Up' is a pitiful, depressing ode to loneliness and living in a purgatorial state with hymnal keys, and the accompaniment of what sounds like a loading ZX spectrum. 'Hit the City' with Polly Harvey is more bombastic with some seriously filthy bass. The way Peej's voice is distorted over Lanegan's throaty demonic scowl makes it taste like warm moonshine. These two should collaborate together more, and thankfully they do a bit later on in the record on 'Come to Me' - a seriously sassy piece of music. 'Methamphetamine Blues' is jaggedy and squally, with industrial clattering and perpetual squealing, and even more extreme is 'Can't Come Down', a panicky aural assault on the ears that will possibly induce a fit of paranoia.

At times 'Bubblegum' is terrifying, exhilarating, intimate, sexy, weird, and downright wonderful. 'Bubblegum' is the sound of being loaded. 'Bubblegum' is highly addictive, so be careful.

When Mark Lanegan began releasing solo albums in the early '90s, he was still fronting the Seattle-based Screaming Trees, an outlet that, no doubt, more than satisfied his appetite for hard rock. So his solo oeuvre, beginning with the excellent tandem of The Winding Sheet and the exemplary Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, served as a vehicle for exploring terrain that was at once rootsier and murkier: darkly elegant, steeped in a swampy miasma of traditional acoustic and blues influences that proved just as fitting for his honeyed barbed-wire rasp as did sweaty rock 'n' roll.

Given that Lanegan's solo records continued in that vein throughout the '90s (and up to 2001's Field Songs), and indeed became his main musical vessel after the dissolution of Screaming Trees, it's tempting to frame Bubblegum as a reconciliation of two extremes. After all, it does traverse rocky terrain similar to his short-lived association with Queens of the Stone Age, even as it showcases the same gift for grim, dusky balladry as his solo efforts. But that description is an oversimplification. Bubblegum is more than an a + b equation (in this case, rootsy solo style + muscular rock). Rather, it's a distillation of the singer's subtly different moods and modes, a cohesive and comprehensive work that stands as the most representative look yet at his musical persona.

To the extent that Bubblegum incorporates harder-rocking sounds, it doesn't rock with the brawny thrash-and-burn of Screaming Trees at their hardest; the album hews closer to the simmering fuzz-rock intensity of Queens' of the Stone Ages' Songs for the Deaf, most esubheadly on "Driving Death Valley Blues" and the charging "Sideways in Reverse." "Hit the City" is propelled by a buzzing bass line that threatens to break apart into static; "Methamphetamine Blues" (also heard on last year's Here Comes That Weird Chill EP) clangs with a junkyard-furnace percussion straight out of Tom Waits' bag of tricks, augmented by thrumming guitar that occasionally peels off into muted squeals that suggest the distant howling of unseen predators.

This rock approach, more coiled menace than balls-out primal scream therapy, fits nicely with the album's dimly spectral ballads and slower numbers, which nod to Lanegan's previous solo efforts while nudging them into the serrated territory first hinted at on Weird Chill. The spare "One Hundred Days" perfectly utilizes the oft-overlooked emotional power of Lanegan's bourbon-and-smoke delivery, while "Morning Glory Wine" wouldn't sound out of place on the Trees' masterful swan song Dusk. This musical terrain both suits and balances Lanegan's dark lyricism, which, at times, teeters right at the edge of self-parody. ("Will you be shamed if I shake like I'm dyin' / When I fall to my knees and I'm cryin' / Will you visit me where my body rests / Will you put on that long white dress?" he sings on "Wedding Dress.")

Throughout, Lanegan is well served by a rotating cast of musicians (billed as the Mark Lanegan Band, a signal perhaps of the singer's desire to shake up his M.O.) including Polly Jean Harvey; QOTSA's Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri; original Guns N' Roses members Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan; and Twilight Singers' Greg Dulli, among others. But it's the singer's hardscrabble voice, poetics and vision that rank Bubblegum as among his best efforts (solo or otherwise), a record that heralds a promising and well-received new chapter in the artist's impressive canon.


So, you wanna sing like Mark Lanegan; well, son, who doesn't? The question is, how does one go about it? First, down about three quarts of the cheapest whiskey you can find. The more it tastes like gasoline, the better. Next on your list, take about 3 years worth of vocal coaching, and, while you're at it, maybe you should take lots of drugs and get in a few well-publicized fights, just to be safe. Oh, and don't forget to release six solo albums and eight as members of two influential and successful alternative rock bands. Not so easy, is it punk?

Mr. Lanegan, for those not in the know, has been in the indie-music headlines for almost two decades. Before beginning his solo career, he was the frontman for the highly-underrated pacific northwest grunge outfit Screaming Trees. Sadly, the Trees fell by the wayside, despite having two rather "popular" songs ("Nearly Lost You," from the Singles soundtrack, and "All I Know" from the 1996 ST masterpiece Dust) and six albums with varying degrees of financial success. It was around the time of Screaming Trees that Lanegan also recorded with Kurt Cobain (on his 1990 solo album The Winding Sheet; Cobain would also cover his excellent "Down in the Dark"), bringing his name to segments of Nirvana's massive audience, much like they'd do for Mudhoney several years later.

Oh, he was also a contributing member in some small-time act of recent years; Queens of the Stone Age, I believe they were called. The album on which he appeared, Songs for the Deaf, might have sold a few copies in Belgium. In any case, Lanegan has, without question, one of the most unique voices in rock music today this side of Tom Waits. Were he so inclined, he would put any of these American Idol wannabes in their place, both on stage and in the Green Room. What I'm trying to say in my roundabout way is that this man can sing. And rock. And whine. To the listener's delight or dismay, he does all three on his newest release, Bubblegum.

Thankfully, Bubblegum does not remotely live up to its name. Throughout its fifty minute running time, Mark Lanegan (and his "band") churn out fifteen songs about loss, love and more loss. The album's title comes from a line in the LP's shortest track, the hauntingly stripped-down "Bombed," in which Lanegan and co-vocalist Wendy Rae Fowler pine: "When I'm bombed/ I stretch like bubblegum." These lines lay out the plot of the record (and, quite likely, Lanegan's recent history) rather succinctly: loss followed by escape followed by catharsis.

Bubblegum starts off slowly with "When Your Number Is Up," sounding like the song that might have come out of June Carter Cash's music box. Though not one of the stronger tracks on this album, it serves as a template for the rest of the album: bluesy tempos with pseudo-druggy bass lines accompanied by loud, concentrated and dominating vocals. "Wedding Dress," "Strange Religion," and "One Hundred Days" have similar bends to them, sounding slow and methodical.

"Come to Me," one of the two beautiful PJ Harvey duets, might help explain some of Lanegan's escapism mentality: "'Cause when I think I'm climbing/ I'm really so far down/ Time takes a while to break ya/ And now, only fire can wake ya." The track is jungle-meets-alt-country in its feel, while "Like Little Willie John" is the kind of acoustic guitar-driven blues song that only Jack White might be able to write (or rip-off, depending on what you think of Mr. White). One of Lanegan's gifts as a songwriter is to turn the mundane into urbane; although many of his songs contain strikingly similar arrangements, not once did I think that the songs sounded the same.

Don't be fooled though, unlike much of Lanegan's back catalogue, Bubblegum has its rock-your-balls moments, too. "Hit the City," your humble reviewer's favourite track, has a pounding rhythmic bassline with a hard-rock feel; add in Ms. Harvey again, and you have a winner on your hands, folks. "Methamphetamine Blues" (also appearing on the preceding EP Here Comes That Weird Chill), with its water-pipe inspired percussion and sinister laugh, could clearly lead-off any Tom Waits tribute album, sounding dangerously close to copyright infringement. Bubblegum's lead off single, "Sideways in Reverse," would have easily made it onto Songs for the Deaf had it been written during those sessions. "Head" an Oasis-inspired torch song, and the slow-tempo "Out of Nowhere" show cracks in Lanegan's armour.

If you're going to buy this record because Mark Lanegan was in QoTSA (of note to Queens fans: Josh Homme and ex-bassist Nick Oliveri have a pronounced presence throughout the record) and/or Screaming Trees---or because you saw the CNN Headline News review the other night---I suggest you keep your money. Lanegan's solo offerings (don't let the "band" moniker fool you; Bubblegum appears to be a solo record in all respects but the name) compared to his band-oriented efforts are as disparate as any artist can get (can you hear me, Scott Weiland?). That being the case, I'll save you the disappointment and the certain trip to the local used CD purveyor. If you like blues-oriented rock from a man who can pour out his soul like Robert Pollard's bartender pours Bud Lite, then, by all means, give Bubblegum a try. Be warned, however; you may not like the flavour, but you won't be able to get enough of the aftertaste.


I'll never forget the first time I listened to the Screaming Trees' Anthology: SST Years 1985-1989. Introduced to the Trees like many through 1992's Sweet Oblivion, I couldn't restrain a smile when "Barriers" began. Mark Lanegan's voice wound into the song high and thin in a time before whiskey and cigarettes charred it into the huskiness heard on "Nearly Lost You" and "Shadow of the Season." Similarly, when "When Your Number Is Up" kicks in on Lanegan's latest solo release, Bubblegum, it's hard to suppress a grin. This time, however, it's due not to bemused shock, but appreciative awe at Lanegan's unmistakable rumble. This time it's backed by everyone from PJ Harvey to Velvet Revolver's Izzy and Duff. A tad more abrasive and rocking than the late-night blooze of Whiskey For the Holy Ghost and Scraps at Midnight, Bubblegum should appeal to fans of great songwriting, as well as rock dudes understandably bummed at the dissolution of Queens of the Stone Age (for which Lanegan sang; Josh Homme & Nick Olivieri both make appearances here).
"Methamphetamine Blues" , which bore its own EP late last year, is the featured attraction here, aggro-blues with hammer-on-anvil percussion that sounds loud even with the volume turned down low. The lyrics recall the Rolling Stones' "Stray Cat Blues" with "Wake up children / Get right soul church / Keep a lock on the kitchen / Do risks for your daddy." It's blues rock in the best sense. Not the stereotypical meshing personified in the fictional band "Blues Hammer" in Ghost World, but fresh, brutal, and alive. "Hit The City" utilizes church organ, a zooming bass, and PJ Harvey's voice bleeding into distortion behind Mark, "In Marianne I dug the hole / And watched her trip on my heart of stone / And in the end all that crawled / Was my skin, I couldn't kill it." As solid and earned as the heaviest material is (the single "Sideways In Reverse" is brutally catchy), some of the album's best moments are more stripped down. "Bombed" is a one-minute long lullaby of sorts that gives the album its name, "When I'm bombed I stretch like bubblegum" he purrs way, way down low. "Strange Religion" sounds like dust in a pillar of stained-glass filtered light, swirling around leisurely in 6/8 time. Lyrical conceits here, as on the rest of the album, concern gambling, cars, religion, and the night. It's certainly familiar territory, but there's no denying the conviction in Lanegan's musing, "Get in next to me, just keep driving / Cause of you I been alive / And this Buick's a Century, '73 like you." The processed-bass/organ that's tied to the drums on "Wedding Dress" makes an oddly addictive anchor to the song, playing counterpoint to the wordless female harmonies between verses. Guitar feedback squalls before it's spun into a keening solo. "When Your Number Isn't Up" is perfect hangdog soul, beginning with faint piano tinkling before the spotlight shifts to the singer, "Did you call for the night porter? / You smell the blood running warm / I stay close to this frozen border / So close I can hit it with a stone."
At 15 songs, the album could stand a trim here and there. Not that any particular song cries out "Dud!", but some songs inevitably shine brighter than others. "Morning Glory Wine" works well to provide ballast for the heavier songs near the record's end, but it pales slightly in comparison to "Strange Religion". Likewise, "Death Valley Blues" might one rave-up too many. But as the Bubblegum draws to a close with the jangly saloon rock of "Out Of Nowhere", you know you've been served well. It might scare the children, but in the end, isn't that what it's all about? :

Smoky-voiced singer-songwriter Mark Lanegan is one of today's finest exponents of Americana, but it recently seemed music historians would ultimately look back on his career as that of an unrealised talent, such was the audible downward spiral on his last EP, Methamphetamine Blues. But Bubblegum is his best work since his covers album, I'll Take Care of You, and the high-water mark for his original recordings.
It's as if he's distilled all the best work he's done with his old band the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and his solo work. It's still very dark, but offers more of a range of moods than previous albums - from loneliness and redemption to compassion and euphoria - as well as textures, with organ and pretty strumming providing a foil to the feedback and scrapping, pummelling and distant ringing guitars.
Lanegan uses vivid imagery of ghost towns and deserts, and biblical references of crucifixions, holy ground and "blood running warm" to help weave his tales. He's barely alive - and certainly emotionally spent - on the opener, When Your Number Isn't Up, on which he seems to have woken up from one big bender in a different world, with his friends gone. "But you're still above the ground," he sings with conviction. But on Hit the City it's as if he's had a shower, a big breakfast and a bloody mary, and, with back-up vocals from P.J. Harvey, he sounds back in command like the early grunge days with the Screaming Trees.
The 15 songs here are split between world-weary and introspective late-night ballads (such as Strange Religion, with Guns N' Roses' Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan helping out on vocals), menacing and muscular adrenalin-rush pieces (Sideways In Reverse, Death Valley Blues, and One Hundred Days, the latter recalling the ethereal spirituals of I'll Take Care of You), and the spritely melodies of Wedding Dress, which fades out with the opening of Johnny and June Cash's Jackson: "We got married in a fever." Even the clanging industrial chain-gang sounds of the song Methamphetamine Blues fits in here among the array of emotions.
It's hard to tell if the title is ironic, given the dark nature of the album, but perhaps he answers this on Bombed: "When I'm bombed I stretch like bubblegum." This album will resonate with listeners long after the storm has settled, the ice has melted and his words fade to black. A modern-day classic from one of rock's great survivors.

From :
Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum
Posted by Zombyboy on August 04, 2004 03:29 AM
Filed under: Music, Music: Alternative Rock

Mark Lanegan is not a sentimental man.

That may come as a surprise to people who are used to his smoky, crooning voice caressing lyrics like "Almost called it a day so many times/ Didn't know what it felt like to be alive/ 'Til you been a friend to me, like nobody else could be" from his upcoming album Bubblegum. The simple truth is that his lyrics, his voice, and his music are deeply emotional refrains for his fans.

But Mark Lanegan is not a sentimental man.

He breaks from his past with barely a look back. In recent interviews, he barely nods at his previous albums-whether the solo works with Mike Johnson or the earliest work as the singer for Screaming Trees-and always seems to prefer to look forward to new opportunities. That may be a strong survival trait for a man who has been making music for the better part of twenty years and has seen the seedier side of rock and roll from center stage.

Only a few fans and musicians might have imagined that Lanegan would be one of the few remaining "grunge" artists still making music. Somehow, through the deaths of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Curt Cobain, and Layne Staley, there was Lanegan surviving it all. His own addiction to heroin and his arrest for possession of crack cocaine are well-documented; his altercations with members of Oasis and Trail of Dead are legendary. What was less known was that throughout it all he kept up a steady stream of solo albums showing a rare musical depth and sound completely at odds with his grunge image.

Usually referenced as some strange mix of blues, folk, country, rock, and pop sensibilities, albums like Whiskey for the Holy Ghost and Field Songs earned him a small, devoted following. These fanatics knew something that the rest of the world just now seems to be realizing: Mark Lanegan is the owner of one of the finest voices in rock music. Deep, earthy, and surprisingly versatile, his is the kind of distinct voice that most other singers would be happy to trade their souls for.

That's all in the past, though. For Lanegan, what is interesting is what happens next. For now, that means Bubblegum, the strangely titled (it makes sense only when you've listened to the song "Bombed") new release that seems poised to launch him to new level of fame.

Just released in Europe, and poised for an August 10 release here in the United States, Bubblegum is already garnering the kind of good press usually reserved for names of a much larger stature. His record label, Beggars Banquet seems intent on making sure that Lanegan is noticed, and the music press seems happy to help the cause. With good reason, it turns out: Bubblegum is brilliant.

From the oddly disjointed opener, "When Your Number Isn't Up," returning fans will know that this isn't business as usual. This isn't the soft country rock of I'll Take Care of You's opener "Carry Home." This is organ and drum beat in the foreground with a scratchy electric guitar buzzing in the background while Lanegan sings a dark little song about what sounds like a drug overdose. "When the sun is finally going down, and you're overdue to follow/ But you're still above the ground" he sings against that bleak backdrop. From that point, the listener is on notice: this is anything but easy-listening pop music.

Then it gets good. PJ Harvey joins in to sing the backing vocals on the rocker "Hit the City," a song far better than almost anything else you'll hear on the radio stations these days. The two voices--hers soaring and sweet, his all gravel and sex-work incredibly well together. Vocally, they were made for each other.

What follows, "Wedding Dress" is the sickest, most disturbing pronouncement of love that you're ever likely to hear. Lanegan's voice has an immediacy that is hard to deny when he sings "Will you be shamed if I shake like I'm dyin'/ When I fall to my knees and I'm crying?/ Will you visit me where my body rests/ Will you put on that long white dress?" What makes it stranger is when you find out that the angelic voice in the background is Wendy Rae Fowler, Lanegan's ex-wife. Apparently, the split came after she had recorded backing vocals on a number of the songs.

Most of the CD progresses like that-from strength to strength, building until you realize that this album is subhead. Only a few songs let down the proceedings. The second PJ Harvey duet, "Come to Me" has a sensual feel to it, but moves along so slow that it doesn't quite catch fire, and "Can't Come Down" seems to stumble along, never hitting its stride.

But those two songs are small glitches on an album of thirteen other brilliant efforts.

Lanegan may have never recorded a more beautiful song than "One Hundred Days," a slow, lush ballad. Musically, it is perfect with little guitar touches and a sensuous bass line moving in the back. One listen to this song in my cubicle was all it took to have co-workers walk up to find out who the artist was. "Strange Religion" duplicated the feat with its simple, pop rock melody and sweetly rendered lyrics.

In fact, those two songs alone would be worth the price of admission. It's really only gravy that you get the disturbingly intimate and barren "Bombed," the hard rocking "Sideways in Reverse" and the latter-day psychodelia of "Morning Glory Wine."

Working with the likes of Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), PJ Harvey, Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers), Izzy Stradlin, and Duff McKagan (Guns n' Roses), nothing is precisely what you would expect. While the other artists offer their own talents, the star of the show and the atmospheric center is still Lanegan's voice and view of the world.

The strength of that view, though, is that it never crosses into a self-indulgent pose. Where most bands sing of drug addiction with a faux angst that grates, Lanegan sings something that feels like the truth. His delivery is never overbearing or moralizing, just honest even to the point of admitting that he doesn't really want to leave those drugs alone. At least, not entirely.

On "Driving Death Valley Blues," Lanegan admits that he doesn't "want to go cold turkey" in a song that moves long with an intense groove that will get the listener's entire body grooving with the beat. Hard, fast, and sporting drum flourishes that thrill, this is a song that shows the influence of Lanegan's time with Queens of the Stone Age, but is still owned by his particular musical aesthetic. Coming as it does after the gorgeously radio-friendly "Head," this is an album that retains all of the hallmarks of Lanegan's entire musical catalog while taking aim square at new listeners.

Whether it works is anyone's guess. Lanegan doesn't have a media-friendly personality or a poster-friendly face. What he does have, at an age when most rock artists are slowing down, is an almost arrogant willingness to put out rock music that conforms to his own personal vision-and, love the album or not, manages to make the youngsters look like poseurs.

In one album, he manages to lay claim to being the real inheritor of the blues on "Little Willie John." Then he turns around and offers up post-punk hard rock in "Sideways in Reverse." To top it off, he gives us the tender "Strange Religion" and never loses the sense that this is one solid, purposeful album from beginning to end. In fact, Bubblegum just begs to be listened to all the way through.

Who said the album format was dead?

Bubblegum, this oddly titled masterpiece, ends with a song seemingly inspired by Sergio Leone's movies. "Out of Nowhere" acts as the perfect ending to the album as Lanegan sings "As it begins so too it ends" over what sounds like the perfect soundtrack to any of those old films.

This is an album well worth the space in anyone's collection-a refreshingly straight-forward look at rock and roll and blues that never feels mired in the past. It draw from those influences happily, but without being overly sentimental.

And it comes back to that. Mark Lanegan isn't a sentimental man-at least not in any public sense. Music lovers should be thankful for that favor. Where, in the hands of someone of lesser voice and weepy maudlin emotions, this album would seem to be a farce. It would be overwrought and laughable.

In the hands of Lanegan, though, it is deeply affecting and personal, but never overly dramatic. Glancing at the past isn't a bad thing, but the music, the lyrics, and, seemingly, Lanegan's outlook on life are rooted in looking to the future. Dark as the album may be, that outlook still lends a feeling of determined hopefulness.

Highly recommended.

From Uncut:

Dark angel
Sixth terrific solo album from hedonistic, nihilistic Seattle survivor
Mark Lanegan Band

Mark Lanegan is, you suspect, rarely surprised by what life deals him. But when the first song on his latest album is called "When Your Number Isn't Up", it seems possible that even this most unflappable of rock nihilists may be amazed by his survival. For much of the '90s, hearsay suggested the hedonistic Lanegan would, like his friend Kurt Cobain, be a Seattle rock fatality. The records he made - both as a solo artist and as frontman of The Screaming Trees - seemed preoccupied with an inescapable procession towards death.

They did not, however, take into account the man's stubborn constitution. Cleaned up, but still preoccupied with mortality, in recent years he has become a glowering totemic fixture on Queens Of The Stone Age records as well as his own; an ominous presence by which rock's outlaws and transgressives measure themselves. As a result, Bubblegum finds Lanegan in the midst of wild and disparate company, all feeding off his dark energies.

Mainly the music is provided by Josh Homme who arranged the songs with Lanegan, and the extended Queens family (drawn from Mondo Generator, Earthlings?, Eleven and Masters of Reality). But others pass through: Guns 'N' Roses renegades Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan; neglected grunge auteur Greg Dulli; and PJ Harvey who spars with Lanegan on the catchy "Hit The City" and the tremulous "Come To Me".

It's a departure from previous Lanegan solo LPs, which have focused on grimy exhumations of folk and blues, and painted him as a US counterpart to Nick Cave. This time, Lanegan is looser, open to both experimentation and, once more, full-on rock. So "Methamphetamine Blues" and the superb "Wedding Dress", fired by sputtering drum machines and a distinct junkyard ambience, betray a kinship to Tom Waits. And the garage-psych of "Can't Come Down" and "Sideways In Reverse" are the closest he has sounded to the Screaming Trees since their last album was released in 1996.

At heart, though, this is an entirely consistent record from a man who's yet to make a bad one, and whose rasping gravitas has made him one of the great voices of our time. As ever, Lanegan portrays himself on the verge of oblivion - "I see the smoke from the revolver/Will I get hit? I hardly care," he noted in "Bombed" - and waiting to be judged. He still has little hope for his soul, so even when he appropriates the form and language of gospel (on the beautifully understated "Strange Religion"), he rarely seems so sentimental as to countenance redemption - or at least redemption as we conventionally understand it. "This life might eventually just be the end of me," he sings. If it is, few will have addressed it with such calm, rueful dignity.


Lanegan ruminates on life, death, and whether he's really a lazy bastard

UNCUT: How do you think you've changed as a singer-songwriter?
ML: I think I've gotten better. I think I enjoy it more and that's reflected in the records.

UNCUT: You seem to take an unsentimental approach to life and death with the line, "Will I get hit? I hardly care."
ML: I think that a song isn't real life. I mean, I don't know how sentimental you can be about life and death, but I'm certainly more emotional than that might reflect when it comes to life and death. I don't take death with a grain of salt - it's just a line in a song - but sometimes that's just how you feel.

UNCUT: When you first joined up with Josh Homme in QOTSA [in 2002], you said, "I'm a lazy bastard. It's a lot easier to let someone else be Caesar." What changed?
ML: Nothing. I'm exactly the same as I was then. It's just every now and then I have to make my own record.

From Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

This Week's Hot CD: Mark Lanegan Band's 'Bubblegum'
Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet)

Few who have followed vocalist Mark Lanegan from the Screaming Trees to his work with Queens of the Stone Age and his fine solo releases may expect "Bubblegum" to be a bouncy pop CD.

The title comes from "Bombed," one of the saddest, and the shortest, songs in a set of despairing originals. Playing an acoustic guitar, Lanegan sings, "When I'm bombed I stretch like bubblegum." Softly echoing, sometimes only whispering, the bleak lyrics is Wendy Rae Fowler, to whom Lanegan was married for a short tumultuous time. It is the story of this marriage, this attempt at normalcy and this deep but failed desire to connect, that makes this Lanegan's finest release.

There is no posturing in creative angst and no promise of giving up drugs and living happily ever after. The fire in "Bubblegum" has a steady, blue flame, lit by the honesty and intimacy in the songs and Lanegan's knowledge of music that preceded grunge.
(Roberta Penn)

From New Jersey Star Ledger:

Lanegan offers something to chew over

Mark Lanegan strode onto the stage midway through the Queens of the Stone Age set at Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago. Tall and laconic, he trailed cigarette smoke and bad vibes like some Old West anti-hero. In this case, a book could be judged by its cover, as Lanegan stood stock-still but out-roared the Queens at their loudest. He saturated his songs from the band's "Songs for the Deaf" album with the sonorous authenticity of a very old soul.

This was nothing new for the man. In the late '80s and early '90s, Lanegan did the same full-time for the Screaming Trees. Wielding his voluminous baritone like a backwoods Jim Morrison, Lanegan fronted the volatile merchants of Seattle psychedelia on a string of SST and Epic LPs; at the height of grunge, he could be heard on rock radio bellowing the hit "Nearly Lost You." Signifying a stylistic departure, his 1992 Sub Pop solo debut included the cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" that inspired Kurt Cobain's version on Nirvana's "Unplugged" album.

Unlike many of his friends from the Northwest, Lanegan never succumbed to casualty status, despite more than his share of angst and abuse -- often evoked in the raw, ruminative brand of bent folk-blues he has sung since the Trees went up in smoke. Singing these songs, Lanegan evokes a post-punk Johnny Cash, pouring out impressions of regret and ire like bourbon from a barrel rather than a bottle.

Lanegan brewed "Bubblegum," his sixth solo album, with a transient "band" including Queens kingpin Josh Homme, Alain Johannes and other players from the impromptu commune that yields Homme's line of "Desert Sessions" discs. One such alumnus, art-rock chanteuse P.J. Harvey, duets with Lanegan on two tracks -- the trouble-seeking rave-up "Hit the City" and the lovesick, or rather sick love, song "Come to Me." Another from the California circle is guitarist/vocalist/producer Chris Goss, who harmonizes on the majestic "One Hundred Days," perhaps the most optimistic, and beautifully poetic, song Lanegan has ever written.

Like the moods of another Harvey confrere, Nick Cave, Lanegan's "Bubblegum" swings from hard-as-nails rock to wasted-at-twilight balladry. But dripping with nicotine and insomniac edginess, his dusky voice takes on more extrovert challenges here than on his recent solo work. "I'll Take Care of You," Lanegan's 1999 covers collection, featured a deeply soulful take on the Buck Owens classic "Together Again" among its rustic meditations. Setting the tone for "Bubblegum" was an eight-track EP, "Here Comes That Weird Chill," that includes a feral cover of Captain Beefheart's "Clear Spot."

The lone inclusion on "Bubblegum" from the EP is the wild-eyed, headlong "Methamphetamine Blues," one of several tracks alluding to experiences perhaps observed at too-close quarters. The refrain of the devilish road song "Driving Death Valley Blues" goes, "I don't want to go cold turkey." The Stooges-like rocker "Sideways in Reverse" hints at dilemmas in all directions. The back-porch elegy "Bombed" serves as the title track, with a lingering image evoked by the line, "I see the smoke from the revolver/I get hit, but hardly care/When I'm bombed/I stretch like bubblegum."

Asked by a British journalist if the making of "Bubblegum" had laid any of his demons to rest, Lanegan replied, no doubt with a growl, "No, but it woke some up."

From The Age (Australia):

Reviewer Patrick Donovan
August 6, 2004
Mark Lanegan Band
* * * * *

Smoky-voiced singer-songwriter Mark Lanegan is one of today's finest exponents of Americana, but it recently seemed music historians would ultimately look back on his career as that of an unrealised talent, such was the audible downward spiral on his last EP, Methamphetamine Blues. But Bubblegum is his best work since his covers album, I'll Take Care of You, and the high-water mark for his original recordings.

It's as if he's distilled all the best work he's done with his old band the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and his solo work. It's still very dark, but offers more of a range of moods than previous albums - from loneliness and redemption to compassion and euphoria - as well as textures, with organ and pretty strumming providing a foil to the feedback and scrapping, pummelling and distant ringing guitars.

Lanegan uses vivid imagery of ghost towns and deserts, and biblical references of crucifixions, holy ground and "blood running warm" to help weave his tales. He's barely alive - and certainly emotionally spent - on the opener, When Your Number Isn't Up, on which he seems to have woken up from one big bender in a different world, with his friends gone. "But you're still above the ground," he sings with conviction. But on Hit the City it's as if he's had a shower, a big breakfast and a bloody mary, and, with back-up vocals from P.J. Harvey, he sounds back in command like the early grunge days with the Screaming Trees.

The 15 songs here are split between world-weary and introspective late-night ballads (such as Strange Religion, with Guns N' Roses' Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan helping out on vocals), menacing and muscular adrenalin-rush pieces (Sideways In Reverse, Death Valley Blues, and One Hundred Days, the latter recalling the ethereal spirituals of I'll Take Care of You), and the spritely melodies of Wedding Dress, which fades out with the opening of Johnny and June Cash's Jackson: "We got married in a fever." Even the clanging industrial chain-gang sounds of the song Methamphetamine Blues fits in here among the array of emotions.

It's hard to tell if the title is ironic, given the dark nature of the album, but perhaps he answers this on Bombed: "When I'm bombed I stretch like bubblegum." This album will resonate with listeners long after the storm has settled, the ice has melted and his words fade to black. A modern-day classic from one of rock's great survivors.


Mark Lanegan has had a good run. Very rarely does an artist produce so much noteworthy material over a long career. He (and his band The Screaming Trees) seemed to be the media over-looked band from the grunge explosion of the mid 90's. Not to say they didn't enjoy any fruits from the media over-hype, but they only had one foot in the blinding white spotlight.

The Winding Sheet, Lanegan's first solo outing, was met with high critical acclaim. The Screaming Tress still remained his main focus, but it was plain to most that he had a certain knack for the intimacy of a solo/acoustic artist. He continued playing both roles (playing in the psyche-rock Tree's and releasing solo recordings) until the historically troubled band couldn't keep it together anymore.

Now, completely on his own, Lanegan has released 2 solo albums. Sub Pop put out Field Songs in 2001, and now he comes back with his first full length for Beggars Banquet, Bubblegum (he has two EP's previously released with Beggars). And as with past releases, the mellow country influenced songwriting is present, but little twists have been add as well.

The rough voice of Lanegan, which almost has a Tom Waits quality, is beautifully blended in with the dark melodies. The first track, and most of the more low-key songs, almost has the same feel as Steve Von Till's solo work. These songs are dark and brooding with haunting song structures that will stay with you (and affect you) after every listen. But then songs like "Hit The City" and "Methamphetamine Blues" show the songwriting that fueled The Screaming Trees, and may even reveal some tricks Mark picked up when he worked with Queens of the Stone Age. He uses the same repetition of driving rhythms that QOTSA has utilized in the past, to build some of the more up-tempo songs. It's a familiar tool, but he uses it to a new end. The songs have a completely unique sound even though they are based on something that has been used before.

This is a strong album, full of mature songwriting and undeniable hooks. It's a songwriter who has honed his craft and knows his way around a great song. Lanegan as given us some great songs in the past, and proves with this album (his 8th solo release) that he is more than capable of giving us great songs well into the future.

From WOM Magazine

Versatility Has A Name by Sonja Müller

Two hearts are beating in Mark Lanegan's chest. One is rocking in a big pose, the other one is remaining silent. One is responsible for the rock bands Screaming Trees, the other one is responsible for five diffident Singer/Songwriter albums. With his sixth album "Bubblegum" Lanegan succeeded with the help of his guests to bring these two opposing talents of his together. the result is nightmarish, shy and hopeful at the same time. And besides it rocks like hell.

From Visions 08/04

God's Words by Jochen Schliemann

Queens of the Stone Age boss Josh Homme didn't work alone with his ex bandmate Mark Lanegan on his best album so far. Besides him the guest list includes PJ Harvey, Nick Oliveri, Dave Catching, Greg Dulli, Izzy Stradlin, Duff MKagan and the co-producers Chris Goss and Alain Johannes. These might be big names for some, but for Lanegan they are just musicians whom he knows and trusts and whose prestige is high - most of the time this goes hand in hand for him. His friends helped the slender singer to heave the project. Honestly: Some of the songs on Bubblegum would have been perfect for the next album of QOTSA. Wherewith not just the surprisingly hard rock songs Strange Religion or Hit The City (a great duet with PJ Harvey) are meant but rather the bulky blues songs like Wedding Dress or Methamphetamine Blues with Oliveri which was already on the tracklist for Lanegan's HCTWC EP. These are shrew and non-life-affirming songs like the ones Lanegan writes for years. But they are better, because of the edgy production, they have a more intense atmosphere and are exemplary for the influence the acquaintance with the experimenting Queens had on the loner whose adopted place to live is Los Angeles. Up to now he "only" held the pulse low with scratchy melancholy, nowadays he is moving in an array from gospel to rock and even reminds with the sound structures of Head and One Hundred Days of the far Seattle where he comes from.

Esubheadly the latter song could urge even men with its superb applied and not at all affected romance to shed tears. But that is only one side of Bubblegum, of an ocean of ideas, of a turmoil of passions, of an omnium gatherum of good, multifaceted songs in whose centre is the voice of an inconspicuous guy, a voice which has more capacity than his body seems to admit. His voice sounds as brutal as a chainsaw on metal in one second and as warm as god's words in the next. The secret main song, the only one minute lasting, alarmingly quiet Bombed is a proof for Lanegan's knowledge when a song has to end.

The 40 year old sings lyrics which sound as if written by a 80 years old who has been sitting on his porch in Louisiana for the last 20 years - thinking. Perfectly staged with vocals and acoustic guitar. Other highlights are the Cash-alike floating Strange Religion and the atmospheric opener When Your Number Isn't Up which turns a nocturnal drive into a mass.

"Bubblegum" - the name reminds of eurodisco-hits, the content is a modern version of the best which was ever created by mankind: Blues. 8,8/12

From the German edition of RollingStone

Bubblegum by Jörg Feyer

The voice is giving the creeps again, the guests are gilding the lily
Dear Ladies,

Would you dare to marry this Gentleman? Interested parties can visualize with this Anti-Bubblegum-album how it would be. Such a "wedding" with Mark, very long and in white, the bride groom sings some La-La-La and is quoting Nancy & Lee on the journey to Jackson before the ceremony is over. But before the bodies unite in the night of nights some last questions will occupy your head: "Will you be ashamed if I shake like I'm dyin'?" The master of pain Lanegan means it damn seriously once again. Isn't there a vacant throne after Johnny Cash is gone? Instantly in the first song with the beautiful title When Your Number Isn't Up warm blood is flowing while this comfortable shiver is crawling up the spine. The voice, oh, the voice.

Lanegan quit the job at the Queens, amicable as it seems for Homme and Oliveri were allowed to contribute as well as Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Greg Dulli, Dean Ween and co-producer Chris Goss. That is too much, it takes away the stringency and clarity of the album (which Field Songs and I'll Take Care of You had) when suddenly Sideways in Reverse sweeps over it like a sand storm in the desert. The wicked Methamphetamine Blues should have also remained on the EP HCTWC for Driving Death Valley Blues is a predictable double of it.

One PJ Harvey is never too much of course, particularly when she is whispering Come to Me to Lanegan while a slide guitar is surfing on the wave of yearning. But ultimately not only this woman wants him for her own, listens to him when he brushes the country soul of Strange Religion tenderly against the grain, when he is driving the blues in Like Little Willie John into the grave, when he is feeding you Morning Glory Wine and finally lets some rays of light touch his voice of doom in Out Of Nowhere.

And why this title? A fine acoustic miniature gives a hint: "When I'm bombed I stretch like bubblegum", Lanegan sings.

Dear Ladies, you should consider marrying him again very carefully... 3 and a half/6

From Irish Times:

Welcome to Lanegan's gumball. The former singer with Screaming Trees and guest vocalist with Queens of the Stone Age has enlisted the help of some friends, including Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Greg Dulli and Polly Harvey, to craft his finest solo album to date. Lanegan may look grizzled and wasted, but Bubblegum is bursting with fine tunes and superlative performances, not least from the ol' Langer himself. When You're Number Isn't Up and Methamphetamine Blues grunt and grind like Tom Waits in a chain gang, and Hit the City swerves on a reckless bassline, crashing headlong with Polly Harvey's graceful screech. Wedding Dress is redolent of Smog's Bill Callahan, Like Little Willie John is as rootsy as you can get without being a blind old bluesman, and Driving Death Valley Blues would have given Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's last album a much-needed fuel injection.

From BBC:

The hard-knocks topography of rock 'n' roll is as well charted as all those dusty, distant roads have become in the Lonely Planet guides. It therefore comes as a surprise when the shadows are illuminated by entirely fresh sparks.
When Mark Lanegan recorded his 1999 album I'll Take Care Of You, he revealed what many of his closest followers had already guessed. As one of Seattle's finest, Lanegan and his band The Screaming Trees were as contemporary as any of their comrades-in-grunge-arms. Yet Field Songs demonstrated a recognition of musical heritage that rivaled Harry Smith.
In his fifth album-proper, Bubblegum, he explores the debauched road that many a troubadour has taken before him. Not for nothing does he sing "Here comes the highway / Can't you see what its done for me?" in 'Driving Death Valley Blues'.
As with all Lanegan projects, Bubblegum is so rich with collaborators that it could warrant Pete Frame growing a Rock Family Tree just for him. Masters Of Reality's Chris Goss and Eleven's Alain Johannes produce much of the record. Contributions come from Polly Harvey, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri and Izzy Stradlin.
Bubblegum sees Lanegan alternating between atmospheres of charged hedonism (particularly 'Sideways In Reverse' and 'Hit The City'), and secular atonement. 'One Hundred Days', with its weary resignation of "There is no morphine / I'm only sleeping" and the hopeful words of "I know a ship comes in every day" comes closest to phrasing the essence of this set.
There are unexpected references too. The circular guitar refrain of 'Strange Religion' echoes Lorraine Ellison's torch-belter 'Stay With Me', and Lanegan makes a lyrical nod to the great Lee Hazelwood in 'Wedding Dress' ("We got married in a fever").
Ultimately though, Lanegan is too restless to let his influences dictate to him. Bubblegum is as rich and fixed a vision as you're likely to find on one CD this year, with little or no room for filler flab.
That rock 'n' roll scenery may be familiar, but its not often it's rendered as beautifully as this.

From Observer:

Another portion of brilliance from the former Screaming Tree, ably abetted by his current bandmates in Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, plus a host of other friends. Lanegan's gravel voice, somewhere on the road from Nick Cave to Tom Waits, tells its stories of loss, dependency and passion over naked guitar (the beautiful, bleak 'Bombed' where Lanegan's bass tones meld beautifully with Wendy Rae Fowler's soft cooings) and the dirty rock'n'roll of 'Sideways in Reverse'. Polly Harvey wails like a siren on top of overdriven bass in 'Hit the City', and she and Lanegan intertwine voices like bindweed and brambles over a slow drumbeat on the grown-up love song 'Come to Me'. It's trite to pick favourites, however: every song here grows in the mind. Buy this record

From Sunday Times:

Mark Lanegan's stint in the Queens of the Stone Age was a win-win situation: Lanegan imbued QotSA with grunge- survivor authenticity and, in return, had the chance to prove that he has done something more than just "survive", having slowly mutated into a songwriter whose work has the timeless, hewn-from-granite power of a Johnny Cash. QotSA's Josh Homme plays bass and drums here. Not that this implies any great versatility. The drums go thump thump thump. And the bass goes thump thump thump (and just occasionally thump thump thump thumpity-thump). That's all you need when Lanegan's croaky growl is on top, sometimes aided by PJ Harvey's spooky duetting. A fabulous album that reminds us "Americana" doesn't just mean country. Sometimes it rocks. Four stars

From BBC 6 music:

The hard-knocks topography of rock 'n' roll is as well charted as all those dusty, distant roads have become in Lonely Planet guides. Therefore its still a surprise to see that its corners and shadows can be illuminated by entirely fresh sparks.

When Mark Lanegan recorded his 1999 album I'll Take Care Of You, he revealed what many of his closer followers had already guessed. As one of Seattle's finest, Lanegan and his band The Screaming Trees were as contemporary as any of their comrades-in-grunge-arms. Yet Field Songs demonstrated a recognition of tradition that rivaled Harry Smith.

His fifth album-proper, Bubblegum, is as steeped in the crooked storytelling roads of many a troubadour before him. Not for nothing does he sing 'Here comes the Highway / Can't you see what its done for me' in Driving Death Valley Blues.

As with all Lanegan projects, Bubblegum is populous enough with name collaborators as to warrant Pete Frame growing a Rock Family Tree just for him. Between them, Masters Of Reality's Chris Goss and Eleven's Alain Johannes produce much of the record, and theirs is a palpable presence. Listen closely, and you catch ghostings of Polly Harvey, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, and Izzy Stradlin scattered throughout.

Taken in one bite, Lanegan alternates between atmospheres of charged hedonism (particularly Sideways In Reverse and Hit The City), and secular atonement. One Hundred Days, with its weary resignation of 'There is no morphine / I'm only sleeping' and the hopeful words of 'I know a ship comes in every day' comes closest to phrasing the essence of this set.

There are unexpected references. The circular guitar refrain of Strange Religion's echoes Lorraine Ellison's torch-belter 'Stay With Me', and Lanegan references Lee Hazelwood in Wedding Dress ('We got married in a fever').

Ultimately though, Lanegan is too restless to let his influences dictate to him. Bubblegum is as rich and fixed a vision as you're likely to find on one CD this year, with little or no room for filler flab. That rock 'n' roll scenery may be familiar, but its not often it's rendered as beautifully as this.

From Hotpress:

Take the sugary title with a sack of salt. When Mark Lanegan opens his mouth you don't see candy-coloured tangerine dream flakes. You see listing rows of tombstone teeth, coughed up cemetery gravel, untipped Camel smoke, gaseous acid reflux, ashen issue of the belly of hell. 'Scuse the verbose prose, but this guy could sing Dan Brown and make it sound like Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
The school I attended, if some dirty little urchin broke foul wind in class, the boys seated around him would wrinkle their noses and say, "Something crawled up your leg and died inside you, boy." The way Lanegan sings, it sounds like something died inside him a long time ago. At Seattle's apogee, Ellensburg's Screaming Trees were the anti-Pearl Jam, hulking woodsmen in thrall to Sabs/Zep heaviness, but with Black Flag attitude in place of hosepipe posturing. Anyone hypothesizing where Nirvana might've gone after Unplugged would do well to revisit his first album The Winding Sheet or Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, which suggested Shane McGowan's lyrical bent set to sepulchral folk.
Since 2001's Field Songs, Lanegan's been the shadow over everyone's shoulder, a trucker-capped cadaver skulking in the Mondo Generator tweaker compound or at the Desert Sessions. He seems far more comfortable playing collaborator rather than self promoter, and in the news section on his website, the following notice has been posted: "I deeply regret that I cannot tour with the MC5 due to conflicting business schedules."
But enough preamble. Bubblegum is his best and most ambitious record to date. The cast list includes Duff and Izzy from G'N'R, Greg Dulli, Dean Ween, all the Queens, plus Wendy Rae Fowler and PJ Harvey. The spread of styles encompasses urban distorto motorvating hymns (Driving Death Valley Blues), neo-industrial cipher songs (Head), and copious mooning-at-midnight creeping jesus balladry, every last word tortured and interrogated for depth by the main man's wolfish growl. Polly Jean provides his perfect foil on 'Hit The City' and 'Come To Me', one loud and blood red, the other frayed and hangdog.
But notwithstanding tunes like 'Methamphetamine Blues' and 'Can't Come Down' - which don't so much reek of narcotics as epinephrine, the pheromonal smell of fear and tension - Lanegan has the soul of bluesman encased in chainmail. You can hear this in the way he worries about his phrasing in the guttural Like Little Willie John ("Lord I'm all alone tonight/Don't the sun love its satellite"), repeating and reiterating, milking every possible variation of meaning from the vocals. You can also hear it in the numerous laudanum-tinctured ballads he seems to love so much (One Hundred Days, Bombed, Morning Glory Wine).
But it's the opening tune, When You're Number Isn't Up, that tells you all you need to know about this, his sixth album. "Turn out the lights/Don't see me drawn and hollow," Lanegan groans over music so bare-boned it sounds like nothing at all. "It's a different world/They left you to this/To janitor/The emptiness…So let's get it on."
Lanegan's boil is a monster's ball. Welcome to his nocturama

From Q:

INTRODUCING - this month you should get to know...

That Spinal Tap style cover is Mark Lanegan's little joke. Over a 19 year recording career, first with Screaming Trees and latterly as a solo artist, the singer had been pigeonholed as rock's pre-eminent chronicler of dark nights of the soul. And all this gravitas has apparently been getting him down. With his lust for life reignited by touring with QOTSA, Lanegan in 2004 is a man reborn. Now he's keen to have a good time all the time.
Bubblegum, then, is Lanegan's first"party"album. Titled with knowing humour, and recorded with a stellar guest list - including PJ Harvey, Josh Homme, Greg Dulli and former G n R duo Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan - it reeks of decadence, devilment, sex and sin. And in contrast to his melancholic, largely acoustic solo output, dirty rock songs such as Hit The City and Sideways In Reverse pulse with lairy playfulness and a genuine sense of release.
But the good times can't last forever, and as the party winds down with the industrial whiss of Methamphetamine Blues, the mood darkens. Lanegan pleads "I don't wanna leave this heaven so soon," but friends drift away, paranoia creeps in and ghosts of the past close in fast. And as the haunting piano-led One Hundered Days gives way to the desolate spaghetti western blues of Out Of Nowhere, the singer gives a convincing portrayal of a condemned man staring down obliteration.
It's Lanegan reverting to type admittedly, yet,defying those convinced he'd be another talent lost to heroin (and lord knows he's had his battles), this feel-bad hit of the summer shows the singer- on the brink of his 40th birthday- to be more alive and more vital than ever.
Smell the glove people.
Essential Track..One Hundred Days

Q & A

Q - Bubblegum features an impressive cast list, from Josh Homme to PJ Harvey: what characteristics do you all share?
ML - Each and every one of them has their own unique brand of insanity which compliments my own unique brand of sanity.

Q - For a "party" album, it isn't exactly saturated with optimism....
ML - I've talked about this with other guys that write songs. I'd love to write a feel-good-by-the-pool summertime type of song, if i could.To be able to hit all ends of the spectrum would be nice. But for me, right now, this album is as close as I'll get.

Q - Is your work with QOTSA at an end now?
ML - Absolutely not. I assume that my friendship and working relationship with Josh will last a lifetime. The most satisfying collaborative work i've ever had is with Josh and i hope he'll produce my next record.

Q - Did Bubblegum help you to lay any demons to rest?
ML - No, but it certainly woke a few up.

Q - What was the strangest, most surprising thing that happened during recording?
ML - Nobody died.

From the London Evening Standard (CD of the Week)

Mark Lanegan Band

Do not be decived by the title of the new record by former Screaming Trees and current Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Mark Lanegan. This is far from bubblegum in any musical sense. In fact, if I had to characterise the listening experience, it is like reluctantly staying up all night and then deciding it was a good idea.
The first lines of the song, When Your Number Isn't Up, set the tone: "Did you call for the night porter, smell the blood running warm?" Keep a tight grip on the furniture, this is going to be a long night.
Lanegan is the possesor of a wonderful voice, gnarled and tender at the same time. These tales of burned-out hedonism are prowled by distant and distorted guitars. Percussion wades in like an enforcer. Standout tracks include Hit The City, with added vocals from PJ Harvey, the bleakly classic Methamphetamine Blues, the one-minute long Bombed, which contains the Bubblegum reference, and the primeval rocker Head.
Emotionally ravaged terrain is traversed here. Bubblegum is a great rock'n'roll records, but I really would advise getting a good night's sleep before you tackle it head-on.

From The Independant:

Album: Mark Lanegan Band
By Andy Gill
30 July 2004

This sixth solo album from the former Screaming Trees frontman is credited to the Mark Lanegan Band - a misnomer probably born of Lanegan's wishful thinking, given the star-studded line-up of heavy friends helping him realise these 15 songs. Chief among them is his Queens of the Stone Age bandmate Joshua Homme, whose sense of structure brings a tautness to tracks such as "One Hundred Days", "Methamphetamine Blues", "Wedding Dress" and particularly "Come to Me", a slow, elegant psychedelic blues on which he furnishes the rhythm and lead guitars, bass and drums anchoring Lanegan and Polly Harvey's duet.
Elsewhere, Homme's on/off QOTSA bandmate Nick Oliveira rubs shoulders with former Guns N' Roses types Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan on "Strange Religion", a lethargic trudge of organ and guitar illuminated by subtle synthesiser and tape effects from Aldo Struyf, while Elevan's Alain Johannes provides the entire backing tracks for a further four cuts, including the pounding Krautrock groove of the cold-turkey anthem "Driving Death Valley Blues" and the similarly drug-soaked maelstrom of vibrato guitar and swirling synth, "Can't Come Down".
This latter pair are indicative of the album's dominant themes, which draw on Lanegan's history of substance abuse with a fatalism that's closer to doomed acquiescence than bravado. It's probably best captured on the album's shortest piece, "Bombed", which finds him sinking into a dangerous apathy: "See the smoke from a revolver/ Will I get hit?/ I hardly care/ When I'm bombed I stretch like bubble-gum/ And look too long straight at the morning sun". The sense of being almost close enough to death to touch it seeps out from several other tracks here: "Dark descends through the promised land," in "Hit the City", another Polly Harvey duet, while the opening song, "When Your Number Isn't Up", describes a grim motel-room near-death scene: "Did they call for the night porter/ Smell the blood running warm?/ Well, I've been waiting at this frozen border/ So close you could hit it with a stone."
As with 2002's excellent Field Songs, Lanagan's still clearly mesmerised by the "psychotropic light" of love and addiction, strapped to a car hurtling 90 miles an hour down a dead-end street, but regarding his situation with more fascination than fear, and able to offer an oddly disinterested commentary from the edge of his abyss. As he notes over the brittle clank of "Methamphetamine Blues", he keeps his "eyes wide open and my shotgun loaded/ I'm rollin' just to keep on rollin'."

From The Guardian, July 2004

Bubblegum (4/5 stars)
by Alex Petridis

Authenticity in rock is a knotty subject, back on the agenda thanks to Joss Stone's Mercury Prize nomination. No sooner was the shortlist announced than voices began complaining that Stone's own voice cannot be genuine. The 17-year-old sings in a manner that suggests nobody knows the trouble she's seen, when the only trouble she has seen back home in Devon involves the closure of the local sub-post office.

That sort of thing really shouldn't bother anyone: after all, knowing that David Bowie is not actually a homosexual fascist demagogue from outer space hardly spoils your enjoyment of Ziggy Stardust. However, if it does, you might consider Mark Lanegan a suitable antidote.

"Did you call for the night porter? Smell the blood running warm?", he croaks over a tinny organ on When Your Number Isn't Up, the opening track on his sixth solo album, Bubblegum. The song depicts either a botched suicide or a non-fatal overdose. Lanegan's vocal style fits perfectly. Ravaged, raddled, redolent of hard-won experience, his voice sounds like something dreamed up by the Department of Health in order to scare people off smoking.

Unlike Joss Stone, Lanegan sounds like that for a reason. A heroin addict since his teens, his story encompasses prison, homelessness, the sorts of jobs that must have made prison and homelessness seem cushy (one involved repossessing electrical goods from gun-wielding trailer park denizens), and so many stays in rehab he presumably qualifies for some kind of loyalty card. His former outfit, Screaming Trees, were luckless grungers prone to violence: Lanegan once offered to shove Liam Gallagher's head through a wall. Most recently he joined dysfunctional rockers Queens of the Stone Age. Performing his solo number Hangin' Tree on stage, Lanegan achieved the remarkable feat of making his bandmates look wholesome by comparison. Those bandmates, it should be noted, included Nick Oliveri - bearded, tattooed and given to performing in the nude.

Lanegan once called his bluesy solo work "death dirges". From its matt black cover inwards, Bubblegum never stints on the dark stuff. There is drug-induced despair and failed romance, with music to match: sibilant drum machines that recall 1970s art-punks Suicide, dolefully minimal guitar figures, shrieking feedback and the unmistakable wail of PJ Harvey on backing vocals.

Even the most hopefully titled song turns out to catalogue misery and disaster. Wedding Dress suggests anyone foolhardy enough to marry Mark Lanegan should make every effort to prevent him writing his own vows, lest your guests end up shrinking in terror and storming the exits. "Would you walk with me underground and forget all my sickness and sorrows?" he growls. "Will you visit me where my body rests?" He probably forgot to book the florist as well.

At its bleakest and least tuneful, Bubblegum is powerful enough to take your breath away. Whoever let QOTSA frontman Josh Homme loose on a drumkit was inspired. His graceless wallop lends unpredictability to the fantastic Hit the City - a song also blessed with a bassline that virtually leaps out of the speakers and challenges you to a fight - and a remarkable ballad called Come To Me, diseased and sensual in equal measure. As the latter track proves, Lanegan has beautiful melodies to spare, occasional chinks of light amid the darkness. One Hundred Days may well be the most charming and touching song ever written about prowling around a red light district - admittedly not the most hotly contested category in the world, but you get the idea. Sideways in Reverse reveals a skewed humour: as it rages along on two chords, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lanegan is singing about cunnilingus.

Bubblegum occasionally suggests that Lanegan has borrowed some sort of Bumper Book of Junkie Cliches from Spiritualized's Jason Pierce (Jesus regularly shows up high on the mainline), but that voice can deliver the most hackneyed lyrics as if they are imperative. More often, though, the album is wildly original. Lanegan can dredge up some startling imagery: drugs make him "stretch like bubblegum", bad news causes him to go "down like a satellite". The cacophonous and unsettling Can't Come Down appears to be influenced by drum'n'bass, of all things.

In the past, Lanegan has been cursed with a kind of acclaim that makes you wonder if you wouldn't be better off buying something else. His previous albums have been big with the Americana fraternity, which these days seems less like a recommendation than a dire warning. Kurt Cobain was a fan, but as anyone who sat through something unspeakable by the Melvins on Cobain's say-so will tell you, the late Nirvana frontman's seal of approval does not necessarily ensure a wonderful listening experience. It is hardly user-friendly, but Bubblegum is too good an album to languish in the margins. There is something thrilling in its unpredictable lurches between darkness and light, noise and melody. In every sense, Bubblegum is a staggering record.

From Musikexpress, August 2004:

by Oliver Götz

Hard jobs concerning Rock'n Roll and Blues: The Ghosttown-poet doesn't handle it inspired enough. No, this isn't an album of guest stars. It isn't because of that. Even though Queen of the Stone Age Josh Homme and his former colleague Nick Oliveri as well as the ex gunners Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan are tearing the chords, even though Dean Ween and Chris Goss are playing with Mark Lanegan on Bubblegum as well as PJ Harvey, his Desert Sessions acquaintance, proves once more that she kindles mighty fires as a duet partner. Lanegan invited a lot of friends, still his first solo album after Field Songs sounds lean, bald, almost bony. There is no lack of intensity at any moment. More on the contrary. The hoarse ghosttown poet tans and emeries his vocal chords relentless, he is pressing and crooning under pressure against invisible storms. At the further end, our end, no scream, no roar comes through, only a voice which sounds like seven lifes. So old, so brittle, showing immense wisdom. Great! At the most only three or four instruments are creating an extraordinary intense atmosphere in addition. So it isn't because of that, too. And one believes in Lanegan's blues, which is sometimes dazed and rolling, sometimes almost violently forced, at any time. It's in his blood. This can also not be the reason. The reason for what? For Bubblegum, this long anticipated album, unfortunately not keeping the promise which was made by the EP HCTWC. Good songs are missing, good songs which make of only two grouching chords something big, of the boring Iggy-Pop-Boogie "Sideways In Reverse", of the Nick Cave alike "Like Little Willie John", of a ballad with a lot dust in the saddlebags like "Strange Religion". It's not that there are no good songs on Bubblegum - but there aren't enough good ones. 3/6

From Rock Sound:
(see articles for full article)

album review: Mark Lanegan Band 7/10 'Bubblegum'
Pictured in the CD booklet puffing on a tab, and advertising his fansite, it's fair to assume that Mark Lanegan wishes to maintain his reputation as grunge's nicotine-soaked survivor. On 'Bubblegum', his sixth solo record, the late-night spaced blues-rock that's come to define Lanegan is as effective as ever. They can still push the envelope a little. 'When Your Number Isn't Up' introduces the album in startlingly atmospheric near-dub fashion, and 'Methamphetamine Blues' allows a bunch of cranky tape loops to lend a lumbering mechanical feel. Pretty much every track on 'Bubblegum' features one or more big name guests. PJ Harvey sings on a couple of tracks, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan croon over the sweet piano of 'Strange Religion' and (ex) QOTSA pals Nick Oliveri and Josh Homme make their inevitable appearances. Impressively – if inevitably – Lanegan remains the centre point throughout.

From Kerrang!:
Vocal Hero Leather-lunged grunge titan returns – with Josh Homme in tow
Words by Daniel Lukes

Mark Lanegan Band
The Lowdown: There are vocalists, and then there are singers. Mark Lanegan, with his whiskey-soaked drawl – two parts Jim Morrison, one part Leonard Cohen – undoubtedly falls into the latter category. Long before he was an occasional contributor to Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan was the voice of grunge's most overlooked anti-heroes, Screaming Trees, as well as one of Kurt Cobain's personal heroes and closest friends.
Ever more intimate and downbeat on his solo outpourings than on his rockier output with the Trees, the misleadingly-titled 'Bubblegum' (brought to fruition with help from a motley gathering including QOTSA mainman Josh Homme, former Afghan Whigs mastermind Greg Dulli and alt-rock queen PJ Harvey, among others), furthers this tradition.
Weaving in loops and synths here and there, 'Bubblegum' is definitely a bolder, more eclectic-sounding album than we've been used to from Lanegan, though without sacrificing any of the man's intuitive feel for hungover-sounding laments and gravelly-voiced, bluesy broodings on love, life and death.
Dark, dingy and compelling, this is music best appreciated in those bleary wee morning hours following burnt-out all-nighters.

From NME:
Funeral with a friend (or two)
Words by James Jam

Mark Lanegan Band
Bubblegum (8)
Raspy-voiced rock survivor makes anguished but ultimately life-affirming album with help from Josh, Nick and the Peej

Before we begin, there's something you should know about American roots renaissance man Mark Lanegan. Former frontman with misunderstood grunge tear-jerkers Screaming Trees, sometime Queens of the Stone Age vocalist and rootin' tootin' grizzled rock troubadour with a string of acclaimed confessional solo works to his name, Lanegan possesses the finest rock voice of his generation. A ragged, Marlboro-stained, whiskey-ravaged baritone bark it might be, but it's the way Lanegan manages to ebb melancholy-soaked anguish from every crevice of the English language and make every slurred syllable sound like a sordid after-hours request that confirms this lofty status.

Lanegan has a voice that could terrify children and console you in your darkest hour. A voice that could strip paint and charm the birds out of the sky. That's diversity; that's a voice.

So 'Bubblegum', his first tentative foray into the limelight since it all got so horribly confused for Queens earlier this year, is a record filled with such emotional scope and range that it's tailor-made to showcase Lanegan's world-weary roar. And not only does it showcase the finest collection of songs Lanegan has written in his long and winding career, but the man's called in a few favours too. QOTSA bandmates Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri turn up all over the place, PJ Harvey lends stupendously stroppy vocals to 'Hit The City' and 'Come To Me', while former Guns'N'Roses buffoons Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan manage to redeem at least some of their cock rock crimes by providing introspective warmth to 'Strange Religion'. Unquestionably though, this is a Mark Lanegan record, swathed with sad, sad songs and seemingly entombed in a claustrophobic catacomb of failed romance and unapologetic drug-addled despair.

This is a record where Lanegan confronts demons and slays them with his throaty rasp. And somehow, among all this, he triumphantly makes an extraordinarily beautiful record.

Because 'Bubblegum' is both as brave and vulnerable as a wounded lion, 'When Your Number Isn't Up' opens proceedings and sounds like the song Johnny Cash would love to have written to close his noble stay on planet Earth, while 'Hit The City' is Lanegan and Harvey getting suited and booted before wreaking life-affirming havoc at the local spit and sawdust boozer. Then there's 'One Hundred Days', a confessional open wound, and a contender for the best song Lanegan has ever written. Under a minute and a half long, 'Bombed' is a snippet of raw unhampered beauty, a rose petal-scented duet between co-vocalist Wendy Rae Fowler and Lanegan's unkempt half-awake croon, while 'Methamphetamine Blues' is the song that's been playing in Keith Richards' head for nearly 40 years. Harvey returns for 'Come To Me', part sadistic lullaby, part liquor-stained irrational love song, tarnished with salty tears and lashings of sugary blood, it's the sexiest love song post 'Let's Get It On', while 'Wedding Dress' is the creepiest (murder) ballad since Nick Cave put away his collection of knives.

These are songs that walk the road signposted 'Oblivion' but Lanegan, a true American survivor, just sparks up a cigarette and cracks a wry, knowing smile at the ridiculousness of it all. He's a man who can confront the existential horrors of existence, the soul-tormenting despair of love and loss, and treat them all as necessary ports to be visited on the voyage of life. Lanegan manages to make all of the aforementioned sound like an adventure that, against all odds, is joyous, precious and holy. He sounds unbeatable, immortal, indestructible.

There's something else you should know. Mark Lanegan is a wrinkled, leathery-skinned, uncompromising punk firebrand. A major label MD's nightmare and a stylist's lost cause. He is the antithesis of the Pop Idol conveyor belt of disposable dross that threatens to eclipse the great rock individual. He is the truth and the light, a diamond in the rough and everything that makes this rock'n'roll lark so all-encompassing.

From the Dubliner magazine:

An organ that sounds like it's being played at the funeral of a man without friends to mourn him. A drum-beat that's a drip falling on a sheet of corrugated iron. Then a voice that makes no excuse for its sulphur-scarred growl: "Did you call for a night porter, did you smell the blood running warm, I've been waiting at this frozen border, so close you can hit it with a stone." Kurt Cobain always had a soft spot - actually more likely a cold, dark, damp spot - for Mark Lanegan and his band the Screaming Trees. But that was a long time ago, before drugs were bad for you and when the demons that claw away at the base of your skull were a sign of character, even a touch romantic. God I miss that... Other people's good moods are the worst sort of pain in the ass, so it is with a sense of satisfaction that I can report that Mark Lanegan has not lightened since the mid nineties. Joining him on occasional vocals is Polly Harvey; and on Come To Me their duet is the very sound wolves and lambs make when they lay down together.