Reviews for Here Comes That Weird Chill: Methamphetamine Blues, Extras, & Oddities
Mark Lanegan Band Here Comes That Weird Chill
Fact is, I can attribute little more than the confluence of personal ignorance and journalistic negligence to the fact that I had, until now, predominantly associated Mark Lanegan's name with his work as the frontman of Screaming Trees. I had mistakenly and categorically written him off as a splintered postscript by-product of the necessary dissolution of Seattle's overindulgent early 90s scene, that is, until recently exploring a good chunk of his back catalog and this, Here Comes That Weird Chill, his most recent solo release. Granted, the post-departure travails of the driving forces behind such rusted vehicles as Dinosaur Jr. and Soundgarden surely contaminated my expectations, but I wouldn't say they had ritually poisoned me to bar acceptance of artistic redefinition within their sphere. So, then, what flowers may bloom from the northwest doorway? Read on, Chris Cornell.
For these eight, brief snapshots of Lanegan's vitality-- a mini-LP featuring one finished song and assorted outtakes from his forthcoming Beggars Banquet debut-- he's dropped much of the southern folk and acoustic blues of his previous solo releases, giving way to a muddier, more driven sound. A highlight, "Wish You Well" exemplifies Lanegan's ability to grittily belie a gorgeous base melody with layers of guitar and droning tones from organs, looped noise and synths. Above the mix rest his vocals, which are best served when he deploys a low-down, brash Waits-ian husk, as on "Lexington Slowdown", and are contextually masterful when he plays the role of a confessional journeyman. Past the midway point of the album, "Lexington Slowdown" marks the first time a lucid piano rings beneath his growling sing/speak, dichotomously playing up the role of his pipes above a mirthfully ponderous piano lilt. A gospel-infused chorus then enters, but with such subtlety as to merely excuse its presence. Other than this, the rest of the material grinds on through low-level electric guitar and random, elemental scattershot accompaniment. Settle down, J Mascis.
But his ability to consistently deliver dirty, linear melodies without too-soon drying the well is the biggest feather in Lanegan's cap. "Methamphetamine Blues" (the "single," as it were) begins the album with an industrial assembly-line percussive element, hitting like tormented anvils on sparking steel, but never flies loose; rather, it flits along with a dirty persistence. "Message to Mine" does reel away for a moment of churning swamp-rock, but gently haunts its way into the spin before dying off to Lanegan's plea, "Baby/ It's good/ So good/ It's gonna make me forget/ Forget myself again." His delivery is so artfully persuasive and soulfully wrought. And it's all so sleazy that this backwoods poetry reads like Dylan Thomas under all the murk and dirt and scum.
Lanegan manages to pack down layers of sonic dirt on
each track here, but it's all so deftly wound that the songs never feel
anything but linear and reserved, even for all the action. The lone
acoustic moment is employed as a launch pad for the electric guitar
machine-gun rendering of "Skeletal History", which tightly jams on after
a brief reprieve, but never relentlessly so. He also offers a cover
of Captain Beefheart's "Clear Spot", which he manages to slime up and
slither unnoticeably between his original pieces. Lanegan is the brand
of artist who can make a home in any camp, and, as he proves on this
stormy release-- in any weather. Watch your back, Mark Eitzel.
From Irish Times
You may recall Screaming Trees, the grunge band only hipsters were wise to. Since their demise it’s been a long, strange trip for frontman Mark Lanegan. He’s dabbled in feral swamp-rock, Appalachian blues and hillbilly folk, staying on speaking terms with the mainstream as an occasional member of Queens of the Stone Age. Now, the gravel-voiced Seattle native has produced his most unhinged work to date, a baroque yet oh-so-slightly camp prog epic. Replete with apocalyptic guitar wig-outs, eerie synthesisers, and vocals often barked rather than sung, Here Comes… haughtily defies categorisation. Were Tim Burton to reshoot This Is Spinal Tap in the style of A Nightmare Before Christmas, the score might sound something like this, though probably not as fruity. That’s a recommendation, by the way.
From CD Times
Shivers up the spine time here, friends, as the owner of one of the most distinctive voices in rock blesses us once more with an all-too-short collection of songs. But "Here Comes That Weird Chill: Methamphetamine Blues, Extras and Oddities" is much more than mere Mark Lanegan ego trip, it's a collection of collaborations with some of the most interesting musicians in rock today. Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri and Chris Goss, of the legendary, but criminally underrated, blues-psychedelic-rockers Masters Of Reality, all stamp their mark on these songs.
Opener Methamphetamine Blues
(3:16) is an almost industrial style taster of things to come. A crunching,
mechanical style beat juxtaposed with lush harmonies and that menacing
growl that doesn't "...want to leave this heaven so soon". It’s catchy
and has a great sense of pace; it builds to an impressive climax, punctuated
only by those harmonies.
Mark Lanegan has one of the most distinctive voices
in music at the moment. To give some idea to the uninitiated, on the
Twilight Singers album, Blackberry Belle, he appears voicing the inner
monologue of the devil himself. This EP is swaggering, testosterone
driven and attitude heavy; it’s the musical equivalent of the Death
March scene from The Wild Bunch if you can picture such a thing…Essential.
Mark of Excellence
There's no voice like Mark Lanegan's. It's the scabbed growl you'd hear in the back of your brain as you hurtle along the freeway towards the Mexican border.
Fronting Screaming Trees throughout their glorious career, releasing solo records and latterly, adding weight to QotSA's stoner-pop. Lanegan's back -catalogue is already impressive. But nothing yet has distilled his complex allure as perfectly as this mini-album (a full-length follows next year). 'Message To Mine' and 'Wish you Well' are fine, Trees-esque psyche-grunge, and the magnificent, swelling 'Lexington Slow Down' fits the lineage of his previous solo work. More intriguing, however, are vicious funereal stomp 'Methamphetamine Blues' - vaguely industrial, wholly blues and fearsomely heavy - and 'Skeletal History', a sickly spiral through needles and snakes and poverty. He's never sounded this dark, this lost - a fallen angel surveying a nightmare landscape.
Lanegan suffered a collapsed-lung during these sessions; let's hope the album-proper doesn't cost so high a price.
Best Tracks: The murderous 'Skeletal History', the
darkly-sexual 'Methamphetamine Blues'.
During grunge's heyday, Mark Lanegan was best known for his leading role in Screaming Trees, one of the genre's few bands that captured your interest for more than ten minutes. However, Lanegan's solo work -- for which he's justifiably becoming better known -- is widely known for its sombre tones and dark beauty, as Lanegan's weathered voice often mills around in depressingly languid arrangements. Stark and lonely, Lanegan's songs are probably the sort of thing Charon sings while he's ferrying your doomed ass across the River Styx. At the very least, getting caught listening to Lanegan pick-me-ups like The Winding Sheet or Whiskey for the Holy Ghost is enough to make your friends set up an impromptu suicide watch. Heck, Lanegan could sing about puppies or rainbows and it would probably come out like Death patiently and politely clearing his throat from the bottom of a whiskey glass.
So what happened with Here Comes the Weird Chill? Well, for whatever reason, Lanegan's decided to rock out a bit -- although not in his old Screaming Trees form. This time around, Lanegan buries himself under fuzzed-out guitar, unrelenting blues-sludge, and an aesthetic that loiters on the Tom Waits/Captain Beefheart end of the block. To that end, Lanegan even covers Beefheart's "Clear Spot", paying homage with a very faithful rendition. As a whole, Chill feels immediate and fairly unstudied, which makes sense given its origin. Lanegan's next proper release isn't due until the spring of 2004, so Chill started out as an appetite-whetting single that grew to an 8-song EP of assorted odds 'n' ends from those sessions. As a result, Chill clocks in at under 30 minutes, and its seeming off-the-cuff nature reveals a few sides of Lanegan we haven't seen before. Since Lanegan's new album is reportedly under the same "Mark Lanegan Band" moniker that adorns Chill, it feels like a safe bet to say that this EP is an intriguing teaser for that album. This is the most experimental and energized Lanegan's sounded in years -- obviously fueled by his ongoing connections to Queens of the Stone Age. He kicks things off with "Methamphetamine Blues", a clanking, squalling piece featuring QOTSA's Josh Homme going nuts on lead guitar. The more it churns and grooves, the more it sounds like somebody threw Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous in a room with Ike Turner. The Queens of the Stone Age connection grows even stronger with "Skeletal History"; the track, co-written by Lanegan, Homme, and Stone Ager Nick Oliveri, shows that someone has been listening to a whole lotta Tool. Teeming with nightmarish images of dentists' drills, snakes, dry mouths, bleached skeletons, overdoses, and secrets under abandoned houses, the song evokes a time-scraped emotional wasteland as well as anything in recent memory.
The disc's other obvious standout, "Lexington Slow Down", starts off with a stately piano supporting a spoken word intro that's vaguely reminiscent of Waits's "9th & Hennepin" in its routine bleakness, esubheadly when Lanegan murmurs the tasty line, "this place starts swinging when it's me on the noose". From there, Lanegan eases into a passionate, gospel-tinged delivery that actually ends the song on a reasonably upbeat note. "On the Steps of the Cathedral" maintains that semi-religious vibe. At around a minute-and-a-half, it's little more than a snippet, but somehow succeeds by combining spoken word vocals, snatches of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", and murmuring backing vocals that float in the background like doubters sticking to the back of the church. A couple of cuts necessarily qualify as filler, but all in all, Here Comes that Weird Chill promises exciting things for Lanegan's upcoming full-length. This more aggressive style suits him just as well as his more familiar side, and even seems to encourage flashes of experimentation. His traditionally quiet cigs-and-shots meditations will always be welcome, but it'll be really interesting to see what Lanegan accomplishes now that he's turned the amps on again.
A lengthy subtitle, Methamphetamine Blues, Extract & Oddities, goes some way to explain this generous, eccentric EP. As a prelude to his album proper, due next year, Here Comes That Weird Chill finds the fearsome Lanegan in an unusually playful mood. Involvement with Queens of the Stone Age – and more specifically, Josh Homme’s ad hoc Desert Sessions – have clearly loosened Lanegan up. So the apocalyptic grunge-blues are leavened by clanking experiments, distorted jokes and a fairly faithful cover of Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot. Aided by sundry Queens and their associates, Lanegan emerges as a more approachable character. Nevertheless, it’s telling that the outstanding tracks – Message to Mine (a rousing moan reminiscent of his time fronting the Screaming Trees) and Lexington Slow Down (penitent piano gospel) – are exactly what we expect from this brooding figure on the rock periphery.
Ex-Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan growls
his way through "Methamphetamine Blues" like Small Change-era Tom Waits
singing something off of Mule Variations. It's a great, sleazy opener
to this EP of "Methamphetamine Blues, Extras & Oddities" from the Mark
Lanegan Band's upcoming full-length, Here Comes That Weird Chill. Boasting
musical assistance from members of Ween, Afghan Whigs, and Masters of
Reality, Lanegan and friends cover every angle of the lo-fi spectrum,
from the psychedelic soul of "Message to Mine" to the Nick Cave-like
balladry of "Lexington Slow Down." These are not simply four-track renderings
of soon to be fleshed-out studio tracks or dull covers — Captain Beefheart's
"Clear Spot" — they're gritty snapshots of a tenacious songwriter in
love with the dark. The sound is a bit muddy throughout and the vocals
are often treated excessively, but considering the "extras" tag these
are minor gripes, esubheadly when assaulted by the machine gun imagery
that snakes its way through "Skeletal History." As far as sneak peaks
go, the Here Comes That Weird Chill EP serves as a tantalizing primer.