From Echoes & Dust

Mark Lanegan – Houston (Publishing Demos 2002)
by Si Forster

Released on August 21, 2015 via Ipecac Recordings
When an artist’s career is still going, and especially when that artist is enjoying a period of creativity and originality that shows little sign of slowing, it’s slightly curious to see so much retrospection currently being applied to the work of Mark Lanegan. There is rarely a gap large enough in his current schedule to fit much in the way of a look back when so much to digest now and to look forward to.
This of course is not to say that such distractions are not welcome as the recent 3xLP anthology so wonderfully illustrated, and indeed a boxset of his Sub Pop days is also mooted for release sometime in the not too distant future. Sandwiched in between those collections of largely familiar work comes this interesting nugget of more obscure work from a somewhat transitory time in Lanegan’s solo career.
Recorded over seven days in April 2002, Houston is, as it says on the cover, a collection of publishing demos, some of which made it onto the soundtrack to the Cook County movie, some which evolved into other things by various degrees, and others that simply are just there. Coming as it does between the releases Field Songs (the last of his more traditionally blues/folk records) and the heavy, eclectic Bubblegum, it’s a fascinating document from the very start as the benefit of hindsight here puts Mark in the spotlight as an artist well and truly in transition.
There’s a continuation and expansion of what preceded this session, and there’s no doubt that a lot of people would be more than happy if this collection had been completed and polished and put out as the follow-up to Field Songs, particularly with gently beautiful songs such as ‘High Life’ that follow in that vein and with others such as ‘Nothing Much To Mention’, but of equal interest is the foreshadowing of his imminent journey into the leftfield and the way that certain things get squirrelled away for future use.

Familiar to fans already is ‘Grey Goes Black’ which appears on the Has God Seen My Shadow? Anthology (along with the bright ‘Halcyon Daze’), the title of which was retained for future use a full decade later. ‘Two Horses’’ guitar part will be instantly recognisable from both ‘Mirrored’ (a Bubblegum b-side and still a live favourite) and ‘Deep Black Vanishing Train’ (from Blues Funeral) and is all the more welcome for it. The most obvious and interesting point of reference come with ‘When It’s In You’ (Methamphetamine Blues), the chorus of which is the strongest indication of a mind well at work towards what was to follow.
For all the looking for comparisons, milestones and archaeological nuggets, there’s much to be enjoyed from the songs that appear nowhere else in Lanegan’s published history to date. ‘The Pilgrims’ is an intriguing mix of dark blues vocal, swinging percussion and post-punk guitar, ‘I’ll Go Where You Send Me’’s alt-Americana wouldn’t feel out of place on a David Lynch record and ‘Blind’ is a fine example of slow-paced psychedelic heaviness that fits in neither period of his canon but provides a neat keystone to keep the whole thing as neatly balanced as it can be. It all finishes with the strangest duo of songs; ‘A Suite For Dying Love’’s coda is as joyously uplifting as anything that he’s ever been involved in, while closer ‘Way To Tomorrow’ (featuring a truly mighty vocal performance) is as bleak and despondent as you could hope for from his Dark Mark persona.
Over the twelve tracks here, there is certainly a feeling of slight unfinishedness about them where several tracks hit an impressive groove and then come to a close rather than a fully-fleshed ending, although it has to be said that the sound quality and performance from the artist and his band here is exemplary throughout. These are very large and detailed sketches however, so it’s difficult to see the main audience for this record being disappointed in any way, shape or form with what’s here.
Ultimately, Houston is a very welcome curio for fans, and something well put-together enough to appeal to most passing listeners. Not really a “lost album” so much as a single week that fell by the wayside and that happened to have been put to tape, it’s a record that doesn’t quite fit anywhere due to its own short-lived transitional nature, and it’s this sketched uniqueness that provides its main draw and illustrates further the depth of songwriting imagination that Mark Lanegan possesses.

From Pitchfork

Mark Lanegan: Houston
Ipecac; 2015
By Stuart Berman; August 13, 2015

By 2002, Mark Lanegan was already five albums deep into a solo discography that had uprooted the former Screaming Tree from his grungy groundwater into more rustic, earthier realms. But that year would mark a significant turning point in his career. You can hear it in the jarring contrast between 2001’s solemn, sepia-toned Field Songs and 2003’s scabrous Here Comes That Weird Chill, where Lanegan's brooding balladry gave way to clanging industrial funk, lecherous electric-guitar grinds, and CB-radio squawks. There are a couple of ways to account for the dramatic shift. It’s possible that, with the Screaming Trees officially on ice as of 2000, Lanegan no longer felt the need to present his solo work as the sobering counterpoint to his main band’s amped-up overdrive. Or maybe Weird Chill (and its 2004 counterpart Bubblegum) bore the corrupting influence of becoming an official member of Queens of the Stone Age for 2002’s colossal Songs for the Deaf (a move that would spur Lanegan’s transformation into rock’s most promiscuous collaborator).
Houston compiles songs Lanegan recorded and then shelved during this transitory period, but it doesn’t so much capture the metamorphosis in action as reinforce the abruptness of his about-face. Rather than serve as a bridge between Field Songs and Weird Chill, it suggests the cul-de-sac Lanegan may have hit had he continued down the former album’s footpath into more arid terrain (as emphasized by Mekon Jon Langford’s creepy cover art). That’s not to say Houston is a retread of Field Songs. Thanks to the atmospheric accordion haze provided by Bukka Allen, the sitar accents of Ian Moore, and controlled feedback bursts of long-time collaborator/ex-Dinosaur Jr. member Mike Johnson, the album gently blurs the edges of Lanegan’s sturdy roots rock template with subtle lysergic touches, like mirage vapors rising from the desert sands. But, presumably, Houston wasn’t the bold statement Lanegan needed to deliver at a time when, post-Screaming Trees, his solo work had been promoted from sideline activity to full-time endeavor. The album’s procedural subtitle—Publishing Demos 2002—hints at the career crossroads he was facing at the time.
However, 13 years removed from that context, Houston is a means to revisit Lanegan in his natural habitat, following a decade of increasingly eclectic pursuits both within and without his own discography. Rooted in timeless musical forms—folk, blues, country rock, spaghetti-western soundtracks, eastern-infused psychedelia—Houston never feels stylistically tethered to its moment of origin; it’s the sort of album that could’ve conceivably been released at any point in Lanegan’s career. Adding to the sense of temporal disorder is the fact a handful of its songs actually first surfaced on the soundtrack to Cook County, a 2009 indie drama about meth addicts in Texas that provided a suitably despairing backdrop for "When It’s in You", an early, radically different arrangement of Weird Chill’s howling opening salvo "Methamphetamine Blues". But its wobbly-kneed, light-headed lurch bears none of the nasty, scuzz-covered choogle that powers the later version, nor does it contain the song’s now-familiar chorus line. Perhaps Lanegan only later realized that staying the course to Houston would amount to "rollin’ just to keep on rollin'".
"When It’s in You" isn’t the only scrap material here salvaged for future use; the hypnotic guitar refrain of "Two Horses" would get recycled no fewer than two times on future releases. But like last year’s judiciously curated Has God Seen My Shadow? box set (which showcased two of these songs), Houston ultimately serves to illuminate a more sanguine side to Lanegan that’s often obscured by the imposing, wraithlike persona he’s projected in his later work. Even at his most dejected, there’s a perceptible smirk forming at the edges of his grimace; on the lilting acoustic serenade "Nothing Much to Mention", he surveys the wreckage of a doomed relationship at a wedding reception gone wrong, but is still game to take advantage of the open bar ("pack up that crystal chandelier/ but leave some pink champagne on ice"). And on Houston’s burning-embered highlight—the cantina slow dance "Halcyon Days"—Lanegan optimistically raises a toast to the good times before wryly admitting, "I’ll do my suffering tomorrow." It’s a sweet, self-deprecating moment of levity undiminished by the fact that—as the grimy, guttural Weird Chill would soon prove—Lanegan wasn’t joking.


Unreleased Mark Lanegan Album Set to be Released
by Brett Buchanan

Ipecac Recordings has announced that Mark Lanegan will release Houston (Publishing Demos 2002) on August 21st. At the time, The Screaming Trees had recently disbanded and Lanegan was in the early years of his solo offerings (at this point he had released a mere five solo albums). The songs on Houston (Publishing Demos 2002) were written, recorded, then shelved. Until now, with the release of this 12-song collection of previously unreleased demos via Ipecac Recordings, CD and 180gm vinyl available on August 21st.

Mark Lanegan discussed his creative process with his collaborator Mike Johnson on his early albums in an October 2014 interview with Alternative Nation.

“When I first started, I wrote The Winding Sheet, and I didn’t know how to play guitar, but I had an offer to make a record, so I made up singing parts. I was working in a warehouse, and at the end of the day I would come up with a vocal melody, and I would go home. I had a guitar chord book, and I would find the chords that went underneath the vocal melody, so I was really doing it backwards. Then when I had those songs, Mike [Johnson, collaborator] came in, and wrote intros, and middle sections, and outros, and all of the other stuff that you need in a song (laughs) besides the singing part. Then of course later, Mike would often right entire songs musically, and I would write the words and singing, that happened a lot also. He’s one of my all time favorite musicians. I made a covers record a couple years ago, and he came over from France where he lives now, and played on it with me, and it was a great time.”


Mark Lanegan – Houston (Publishing Demos 2002)
A Timeless Fragment of Mark Lanegan’s Past

By 2002, Mark Lanegan, singer of ‘90s grunge band Screaming Trees and a proponent of the Seattle grunge scene, had released five solo studio albums that showed an earthier tone of the gravely-voiced punk rocker. Since then, Lanegan has further developed his solo discography, the last of which was Phantom Radio, a post-punk infused experimental rock album, showing the versatility and vision of the unique artist. Houston (Publishing Demos 2002), released August 21 through Ipecac Recordings, is a glimpse into Lanegan’s past solo career.

Houston (Publishing Demos 2002), as the name suggests, is a collection of 12 tracks recorded in 2002 that Lanegan deferred, until now. This year coincides with the then-recent breakup of Screaming Trees, a transitory period for the singer, and his metamorphosis can be seen through his releases. The recordings of Houston were preceded by Field Songs (2001), the last of his more traditional folk-blues albums, and followed by Here Comes That Weird Chill (2003), an electrified grunge-funk album that is otherworldly compared to those before it. Though it resembles the folk style of Field Songs, Houston isn’t so much a bridge between the 2001 and 2003 albums as it is a turning point into Lanegan’s later material.

Over a decade after the songs have been recorded, it’s difficult to enter the contextual mindset of the moment in history. The tracks blend many of Lanegan’s influences ranging from folk to psychedelia, making it hard to pinpoint the stylistic origin in his discography, as it could have been released at any phase in his career. It doesn’t help that a few of the tracks were featured on the soundtrack of Cook County, a 2009 drama following Texan meth addicts, yet the songs fit the bill perfectly.

Houston (Publishing Demos 2002) opens with a strummed acoustic guitar in “No Cross To Carry,” a dark folk tune that introduces the raspy baritone of Mark Lanegan. Dedicated fans will recognize tracks such as “Grey Goes Black,” featured on the Has God Seen My Shadow? (2014) set. “When It’s In You,” an unhinged mix of folk and psychedelia complete with a wailing guitar solo, is an earlier version of “Methamphetamine Blues” off Bubblegum (2004). “The Primitives” is an interesting mix of darker blues vocals and post-punk guitar strumming ornamented by ominous tones, however, like a few other tracks on the album, it seems to end just as it’s getting started.

Houston seems to be pieced together from parts synthesized in Lanegan’s past, yet the components are exquisitely crafted. The album is dark and intriguing, perpetuated by Lanegan’s deep, rusty vocals and a folk guitar. The transitional nature of the album makes it fit anywhere and nowhere in his past career, making it a titillating installment for past and future Mark Lanegan fans.

From Renowned for Sound

Published On August 23, 2015 | By Jessica Thomas | Albums, Music

Even though he only released an album in October of last year Mark Lanegan has opened up his time capsule and unearthed some hidden treasures. After sorting through these hidden gems he’s decided to treat us with a twelve-track album featuring some of these timeless classics, aptly name Houston (Publishing Demos 2002). The entirety of the track list has been collecting dust for over a decade, and they speak of a more confusing time in his life. The songs that make up this album were recorded in 2002 when his first band The Screaming Trees were amidst a breakup and his solo career was thriving.

The tracks that have been collected to create this throwback album are full of sorrow and ultimately painful emotion. True to his singer-songwriter label they’re definitely bluesy rock and full of soul. Mark Lanegan has a voice that is incredibly raw and full of husky and raspy tones that compliment the simple nature of these songs. The entire vibe of the album is of a simpler time, the lyrics might be a bit heavy but musically its full of old school rhythms and beats that take you back to the days of vinyl records and heavy rock. Tracks like “When It’s In You (Methamphetamine Blues)”, “I’ll Go Where You Send Me” and, “A Suite For Dying Love” are a fine example of the nature of this album. They’re full of soul and lyrics that leave you thinking, these tracks are just fine examples of the art that Mark Lanegan created in the earlier days of his career. While some people might argue that some of these songs sound unpolished, or maybe unfinished I think it’s the imperfections in them that make them so special. Any artist can leave songs on a symbolic shelf, but it takes a true musician to be able to bring them back after 13 years and release them as they are, take them or leave them. Each track is full of classic folk rock, you hear the simple guitar chords and you hear the vocals crooning over the lyrics. There is no fancy instrumental backing track, it’s just raw talent and that’s what makes a record like Houston (Publishing Demos 2002) ageless. - See more at: