Reviews for Scraps At Midnight
Copyright 1998 Earpollution
For some time I'd thought Mark Lanegan had become
a casualty of his own songs. The rumors of his drug problems were hard
to hide when he was last onstage with the Screaming Trees. He looked
so thin and gaunt that Death himself would've taken pity on him. A drug
arrest before the Trees' final show on their West Coast tour last year
coupled with a solo performance at the CMJ Music Festival a few months
later that was scrapped midway through the set led many to wonder if
indeed we were witnessing the sad demise of yet another talented artist.
But as his songs are--if you look close enough--ultimately ones of redemption,
so is the voice who carries them. And having survived his own hell,
he's thankfully returned to do what he does best.
Backed by his long time brother-in-arms, Mike Johnson,
Scraps At Midnight is another of Lanegan's quiet instrospections into
love, loss, fear, despair--the search for peace of heart and mind in
a world where sometimes there is none. The sparse arrangements sway
slowly behind Lanegan's deep, whiskey soaked voice. The quiet tap of
a rim-shot here, the soft strum of a guitar there, the occasional lament
of a sax or harmonica in the distance; this album quietly pulls you
in and carries you downstream on subtle currents of inviting sounds.
Scraps is a little more straightforward than Lanegan's
previous releases; songs evoking images of the old west and the dusty
trail, stories spun around the campfire and passed down over the years.
Lanegan's smoky baritone adds a particular dimension and credibility
to these laments. Comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are easily
made, but Lanegan is not trying to copy his elder statesmen here, he's
fully aware of his vocal compliments and is wisely applying them to
With the exception of the opening and closing tracks,
most of the album is quiet enough to be a lullaby, albeit a melancholy
one. "Hospital Roll Call" opens Scraps with a heavily reverbed guitar
and a driving drum beat. The only lyric to the song is Lanegan growling
"Sixteen" over and over like a disillusioned mantra--perhaps memories
of his long days in rehab? The album ends with the eight minute, long
winding raga-lament "Because Of This." Opening with the quiet pulse
of the bass line, the song forms and builds around a simple guitar riff--building,
backing off, building, breaking down, slowly building again off the
bass line. "You take me back to the place where I cease to exist / to
find in a kiss / something I've missed / You burn away my disguise and
the heavens fall / because of this / because of this."
Scraps At Midnight is another exceptional album
from someone who, thankfully, takes their craft seriously; someone who
is continually striving to strengthen and improve their art with each
new release. Lanegan has stood down his demons, hopefully for good this
time--and instead of burying them to be forgotten, he's set them free
for all to see and hear.
Copyright 1998 Leicester Mercury
July 10, 1998
SCRAPS At Midnight, the new album by Screaming Trees frontman Mark
Lanegan, could turn out to be a classic.
Lanegan isn't the most uplifting soul, but his solo material makes
Scraps at Midnight is due out on July 20. It has been licenced by
Beggars Banquet from Seattle's famous Sub Pop label which launched
Nirvana to fame and fortune.
Aiding and abetting Lanegan on the solo CD are fellow Seattle
musicians Mike Johnson and J Mascis (both Dinosaur Jr) and Tad Doyle
Lanegan's material is very different to the Screaming Trees who I
thought had one of the best albums of the decade in 1996's Dust
The Screaming Trees, incidentally, are not dead - they are just
Copyright 1998 Guardian Newspapers Limited
The Guardian (London)
July 3, 1998
HEADLINE: gothic acoustic cd of the week: Hard chimes;
Tom Cox on a brooding, rumbling lone star
Scraps At Midnight (Beggars Banquet) **** pounds 13.99
By 1996, grunge had been dead for three years, but that didn't stop
Mark Lanegan (left) and his band, The Screaming Trees, making the
greatest grunge album of all time. It was called Dust, and it sold next
to zilch, despite rocking three times as hard as Nevermind and sounding
like The Byrds teaching AC/DC Eastern mysticism.
Its pained perfectionism left its singer in rehab and its fans feeding
on the dark, hedonistic metaphors of its lyrics.
Scraps At Midnight, Lanegan's third solo LP, announces itself as the
vocalist's comedown from Dust. He spends the whole album attempting
wake up. His voice remains a coarse-grained rumble - part Tom Waits,
part Nick Cave, part Jabba The Hutt. He's got some friends over -
assorted lethargic rockers, including Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis, helping
him lay down some subtle backing tracks - but he sounds utterly alone.
Scraps At Midnight chimes, grumbles, weeps into its beer, and introduces
the concept of Northwestern Gothic.
Dust, on this evidence, left Lanegan drained. Scraps At Midnight - a
record which you can love in a totally different way - is him recharging
his rock batteries, flushing the nightmares out of his system, and
turning crapulence into an artform.
From the August issue of CMJ New Music Monthly:
Mark Lanegan will probably remain best known as the
hearty yowl and big
sideburns at the front of hefty blues-rockers Screaming Trees, one of
the featured attractions during the Seattle explosion of the early 90's.
On the side, though, Lanegan has released a series of solo albums to
little fanfare, focusing not on loud dynamics but on bitter ballads,
acoustic strumming, and his smoky voice. Scraps At Midnight is his
third such outing, recorded with his usual co-conspirator, Mike Johnson
of Dinosaur Jr. manning the boards and some of the instruments. At
first listen, it doesn't seem to break particularly new ground for
Lanegan, sticking to the gentle twang of his previous albums'
country-blues template. Instead, the modifications are subtle, lurking
behind the quiet foreground in the even quieter background: echoey
tremolo on the spacious "Hospital Roll Call," a mournful sax
"Wheels," eerie repetitive Mellotron on the closing dirge
This." Fans expecting Big Seattle Rawk won't get what they're after
with Scraps At Midnight, but they'll find something potentially even
more rewarding: dark and introspective folk-rock with emotion and
subtlety at its core.
Scraps at Midnight
Next to Sinatra, Lanegan's got the second best set of pipes in the
business. Lucky for us, he hasn't croaked yet. Frontman for the
Screaming Trees, this, his 3rd solo is similar to the previous ones,
produced with mike Johnson from Dinosaur Jr. Basically your moody,
mellow, gravelly-voiced rock done VERY well.
allstar rating: 8
Scraps at Midnight
Newly sober, the Screaming Trees lead singer took less than a month
record his third solo album. Under most circumstances that's hardly
news, esubheadly on an indie budget, but Lanegan has previously
proceeded at a torturous pace -- painstaking, eternally unsatisfied
and has thrown away at least two completed albums in the last decade.
Like its predecessors (1989's The Winding Sheet and 1993's Whiskey
for the Holy Ghost), Scraps at Midnight is a spartan affair, with
Lanegan's deep, dark voice set against former Dinosaur Jr bassist Mike
Johnson's gently plucked guitar phrases and a handful of other
carefully placed instruments. The principal difference is that this
midnight, at last, Lanegan contemplates going to sleep and waking the
next day, and just what to do about that. "Living's not hard, it's
just not easy," he sings on "Stay," and that seems an
hard-won lesson, for all its simplicity.
A deeply private man, Lanegan cannot help but sing to and about
solitude. He does so with a stunning and affecting voice, able to wrap
complex emotion around a single, simple phrase, then walk away
silently. (Think early Cowboy Junkies, or Mazzy Star.) The archetypal
strong, silent type, he. But past the opening "Hospital Roll Call,"
Scraps lacks the desperation of Whiskey; instead, it is a wry
meditation on how to conduct a life one hadn't expected to live.
A meditation instead of a howl, that's a kind of progress. It makes
for a surprisingly adult, oddly assured record, and gives promise of
more in the offing. There's even a bit of sunshine in the best track,
"Wheels," Lanegan's voice brushing tenderly against a saxophone:
I am, still hanging on. Hello," he sings.
-- Aloysious Peabody
Scraps At Midnight
Is Seattle the gloom capitol of the world, or what? Along with Pacific
Northwest artists like ex-Heatmiser Elliot Smith and Best Kissers In
World's Gerald Collier, Lanegan's true colors -- which seem to tend
toward gray and black -- come out on his solo work .
On his third solo album, Lanegan embraces a sparse, haunted sound that
has its roots in the folk and blues ballads of rural America, and shows
once again that he's better able to express himself personally with
forlorn acoustic guitar than with a full-blown rock band behind him.
Working with multi-instrumentalist, co-producer, and fellow moodist
Johnson (formerly of Dinosaur Jr.), Lanegan has now completed his first
trilogy of exquisitely tormented solo albums. This solemn tradition
began with The Winding Sheet back in 1990 and continued with Whiskey
The Holy Ghost in 1994. Like his new disc, both of these older projects
feature Lanegan's hellhound-on-my-trail vocals over a brusque thicket
acoustic and electric guitars. On Scraps at Midnight's opening
composition, "Hospital Roll Call," Lanegan gravely and cryptically
the word "sixteen" over and over while Mike Johnson's surf-inspired
instrumental guitarworks resonate behind him. Whatever it all means,
Lanegan manages to make it creepy and catchy at the same time.
On the song "Hotel," Lanegan engages in a stark, moving confessional
that is typical of his best work. He sings, "I don't speak too
Hear the roar and the hush of the cold chill of time, and I'm happy
murdering my mind." In general, Lanegan dwells on the more desolate
of life and manages to make it interesting. From his lyrics it would
easy to assume that the man is bound for the nearest psych ward or rehab
unit, but Lanegan seems to finds salvation in his depressing, evocative
music. There are even some elements of bleak optimism hidden on this
album. Amidst the mid-tempo folk-rock of "Wheels," he half-murmurs,
"You've got to walk in the sun, and got to smile for everyone."
Mark Lanegan's bruised, husky voice is eerily similar to both Jim
Morrison's and Iggy Pop's, two other singers whose art was informed
the dark sides of their character. On Scraps Of Midnight, Lanegan takes
the pain in his life and turns it into a balm. Much in the spirit of
forgotten bluesmen like Skip James and possessed country balladeers
Hank Williams, Mark Lanegan reaches quite deeply into his tortured soul
and pulls out one gem of an album.
-- Mitch Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Scraps At Midnight
THOSE EXPECTING A WAKE will leave disappointed. Far from being a near-death
epic of addiction and sickness, Screaming Trees' singer Mark Lanegan's
third solo album is actually a sombre statement of defiance, a confirmation
of his status as the backwoods Nick Cave and a reminder that he's still
breathing - albeit only just.
Recorded in Joshua Tree, 'Scraps At Midnight' finds Lanegan joined once
again by Dinosaur Jr's Mike Johnson, as well as many of the musicians
(including J Mascis and Tad Doyle) who played on his last solo outing
1994's magnificent 'Whiskey For The Holy Ghost'. Originally planned
double, 'Scraps...' features none of the material Lanegan wrote with
late Gun Club singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce just before his death. It does,
however, mark a minor departure from the self-obsessed graveyard morbidity
of his previous solo records - even if it does sound as brutally embittered
as ever on first hearing.
Inevitably, given Lanegan's recent history, the spectre of heroin looms
large in the catatonic repetition of many of these songs, along with
his usual obsessions (the solace of love and the inevitability of death,
chief among them). Yet despite the bleak subject matter, Lanegan never
allows himself to cave in to total despair.
Instead, 'Scraps At Midnight' is a starkly honest record, which lays
his problems. "Something has badly gone wrong with me", he
later, "Morning comes/Cold chills and shakes/Just reminding me
mistake". This, remember, on an album recently described by Lanegan
"probably the happiest of my career".
Still, there is great beauty here: in the skeletal piano and guitar
'Bell Black Ocean' and the breathtaking melancholy of 'Last One In The
World'. What's more, as Lanegan's lyrics unfold (all written, as usual,
with the chill clarity of the Old Testament), it becomes obvious that
despite the funereal tone of his voice his spirit remains unbowed. "Here
am", he half-smiles on 'Wheels', "still hanging on".
It ends with 'Because Of This' - eight minutes of ragged psychedelia
the only time the album lifts above a stately crawl. It's proof that
'Scraps...' is not just the self-pitying indulgence of a habitual junkie
(he's clean now anyway), but a genuine modern American classic that
much in common with 'The River'-era Springsteen as it does with the
Devil-at-the-crossroads legend of the blues.
A perversely uplifting experience. Just don't expect to come away smiling.
From Kerrang magazine (18/07/98):
Scraps At Midnight
Rating:KKKKK (max rating !)
BOOZE, FAGS, drugs, women, fist-fights, more booze, more drugs, more
everything. Being Mark Lanegan must be...well, if not fun, the at the
There's no doubt that the Screaming Trees singer could carry an edition
Jerry Springer Show' on his own. But over the past 15 years, Lanegan
thankfully cleaned up - has also happened to make some of the greatest
of recent memory, both alone and with the Trees.
Reams have been written about Lan the Man's voice. The cliches are wheeled
with hushed reverence: crushed velvet tones, the man with the golden
three-packet-a-day-voice. True, of course, but it's so much more than
This is a three-lighter-a-day-voice. When he whispers "Everything
dead" during the love-lorn rasp of 'Hotel', the air of desperation
- even though you get the feeling the only person who could break Mark
Lanegan's heart is Mark Lanegan.
'Scraps At Midnight' is the singer's third solo album. Like its predecessors,
'The Winding Sheet' and 'Whiskey For The Holy Ghost', it's a low-key
more indebted to country rock pioneers like Gram Parsons and latterday
purveyors of American Gothic such as The Violent Femmes than the primeval
sludge of his Seattle peers.
More pertinently, it just doesn't sound like music recorded in the Rainy
Rather, it's the sound of Lanegan packing his woes into a battered suitcase
foresaking the coffee shops of his home-town for the great dustbowls
This, not to put too fine a point on it, is country music with attitude.
'Hospital Roll Call' resonates with hypnotic guitar twangs and swirling
mantras; 'Bell Black Ocean' is a gentle lullaby propped up by piano
acoustic guitar; the elegiac nine-minute epic 'Because Of This' shifts
shimmers like desert sand. Throughout, organ, harmonica and upright
the standard rock 'n' roll trappings to the dusty back room of whichever
happens to be passing through.
"Livin' ain't hard, it just ain't easy", croaks the singer
on 'Stay'. This is
Mark Lanegan's invitation to meet him at the bottom of a whisky glass.
wallow in his misery.
From Pulse! magazine:
Mark Lanegan - Scraps At Midnight
The Screaming Trees frontman's brooding solo efforts compellingly plumb
depths of his tortured soul, mining a gorgeously bleak vibe that echoes
work of his beautiful-loser role models while maintaining an unsettling
intensity that's all his own. Lanegan's third outing trades the emotionally
raw sense of self-discovery of 1990's The Winding Sheet and 1994's Whiskey
The Holy Ghost for an aching air of resignation that suffuses tracks
"Stay", "Hotel", "Wheels, the opening spaghetti-western
stomp "Hospital Roll
Call" and the trancey 8-minute Eastern epic "Because Of This".
stark, ominous vocals and economically minimalistic lyrics affectingly
psychic loss and cosmic heartache, while the lush fragility of the largely
acoustic arrangements i sperfectly suited to the songs' subject matter.
From Metal Hammer (Aug. '98):
Scraps At Midnight
(Sub Pop/Beggars Banquet)
If you've ever heard Mark Lanegan's second solo offering, 1994's doleful
but excellent 'Whiskey For The Holy Ghost', then you'd know this unique
character is hardly the most jolly of men. Indeed, even the Screaming
Trees, the band he apparently still fronts (one would
suggest that the
follow-up to 'Dust' is some time off with drummer Barrett Martin
tub-thumping for REM and Lanegan back on the solo trail) might feature
odd barrel-shaped guitarist, but are hardly a barrel of laughs either.
Thus, 'Scraps At Midnight' might be another well-executed ride through
America's rich rock history, but its moribund and even soporific (at
tone may be off-putting to some. Doleful, then, yes. But bad, most
definitely not. From the Chris Isaak like opener 'Hopsital Roll Call'
(hardly 'Jollity Farm'), this accomplished work may not be easy listening,
but much like its complex and intense progenitor, it will ultimately
you in. Given Lanegan's own richly textured voice (equal parts Robbie
Robertson and Chris Rea), the overall effect is even more haunting.
ain't metal, but you should still give this a try.
- Jerry Ewing
From Melody Maker: August 1
SCRAPS AT MIDNIGHT
SWEET Jesus, country music. Oh lordy, the blues. Oh, bugger, rock singers'
"intensely personal" solo albums. Never-mind-the-amps, here's-my-CD-collection:
it's like petro-multinationals displaying rickety old farm implements
Dallas skyscrapers, insisting "this is us, really". Indulgemt
Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan, stars tattoed on both hands and "nobody
the trouble I've seen" on his big grunge heart, has visited Solo
before. But "Scraps At Midnight" - recorded in California's
Joshua Tree Desert
with Dinosaur Jr's Mike Johnson playing wide open spaces and slide guitar
his best solo work yet. And possibly - as with Kristin Hersh's "Hips
Makers" which this album's "Waiting On A Train" recalls
- his best recording
Dark-hued and reflective, it's sung with the weary intimacy of
arch-miserabilist Leonard Cohen ("Hotel"), Nick Cave's bitter
Ground") and Tom Waits' down-at-heels hymns ("Bell Black Ocean").
opener "Hospital Roll Call" is spooky echo-and-reverb incarnate.
Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" and the Bunnymen's "Killing
down Route 666. In fact, the only indulgence is the Led Zep-tastic "Because
This", which wanders in, sets down a spell and doesn't leave until
Which, in the desert, is a very long time.
Lanegan's reportedly doing an album of soul covers next. If this is
go by, people better get ready.
(3.5 stars out of 5)
first appeared at Road Records,
Every four years Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan releases a solo
album and you wonder will your world ever be the same again. These albums-all
excellent-are devoid of the ego, indulgence and half-finished ideas
that propel most solo efforts, and act as outlets for material deemed
too left of centre (i.e. gentle) for The Screaming Trees. 1990's 'The
Winding Sheet' was a trailer park odyssey which emerged at a time when
most Seattle bands (and their fans) were still overcoming their wah-wah
fetish. As a consequence of such myopia it was largely ignored-making
it into some end of year polls but remaining one of the great hidden
treasures of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps in retrospect it was just
ahead of time, it did after all feature a cover of Leadbelly's 'Where
Did You Sleep Last Night?' three years before Kurt Cobain (who incidentally
appeared on the album) and made it his own. The situation had altered
dramatically by the time 1994's 'Whiskey for The Holy Ghost' appeared.
The Screaming Trees had a hit album (1992's 'Sweet Oblivion') and thus
'Whiskey for The Holy Ghost' was anticipated and subsequently acclaimed.
It was a strangely redemptive affair, less despondent than its predecessor
with Lanegan, having experienced some of the grunge media frenzy, retreating
further into himself.
Which brings us to 'Scraps at Midnight': a broody cinematic affair set
against the backdrop of his own battle with addiction. Despite being
less instant than it's predecessor 'Scraps' is ultimately his most rewarding
to date. Backed by various friends (J. Mascis, Tad Doyle), Lanegan delves
deep into his homeland's musical history-the simple, down home arrangements
acting as the perfect foil for the emotional complexity of the lyrics
and his troubled, dustbowl vocals. 'Hospital Roll Call' has a distinct
Mexican flavour made all the more unnerving by the repetition of the
word 'sixteen' while the standout track 'Last One In The World', is
a beautiful farewell to a lost friend-Lanegan sounding more fragile
than you could ever imagine . It ends in demonic fashion with 'Because
Of These', as the feedback and the drums finally triumph, you realise
that 'Scraps at Midnight' is really the only confession you want to
hear. The perfect companion-from dust til dawn.
from the Phoenix New Times, September 1998
Mark Lanegan Scraps at Midnight
(Sub Pop Records)
Scraps at Midnight is a dark
business. Mark Lanegan's third effort outside of the Screaming Trees
wastes no time in initiation. The cheerily titled opening track, "Hospital
Roll Call," is a cartoon surfabilly romp featuring a giant-sounding
hollow-body guitar that painfully bends into nothingness. The word "sixteen"
is mysteriously stage-whispered at random, the only lyric. It's the
first stop on a 10-track tour of Mark Lanegan's inner weather, and the
forecast doesn't call for sunshine. Lanegan's voice -- full of bar-rag
water, cigarette butts and world-weariness -- is actually deeper than
on his last release. It's the voice that carries these painful diary
entries, melodic and old, bent but not broke, a rich baritone that at
times is nearly subsonic. His voice is a perfect complement to the organic,
minimalist soundscapes, and cryptic lyrics like "if only the moon would
have left me alone" make Scraps sad fun. Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr.
played on and co-wrote this album. The better songs dwell in the Nick
Cave/Leonard Cohen underworld. "Bell Black Ocean" is a drunken boat
rocking melodically back and forth, featuring only acoustic guitar,
piano and Lanegan's voice. It ends just when it begins to hypnotize,
and resides in your head for days. "The Last One in the World" is the
only really weak song on the record, with self-consciously pretty music
and sentimental lyrics. It belongs on the B side of a single, not in
the middle of these great songs. The album bounces back with the next
track. "Wheels" features J. Mascis and Tad Doyle, and the added players
fill up the empty space to great effect. The song begins as a spare
desert landscape. The melody then pulls you along until it swells ferociously,
with so many things going on that a saxophone doesn't sound strange
on this largely quiet record. These 10 offerings from the talented Lanegan
constitute by far his best collection. Deeply personal and sometimes
hard to listen to, this album's goal is not to depress but to exorcise.
"Livin's not hard/It's just not easy," he explains to those who need
explanations. -- Jonathan Bond
Mark Lanegan albumís should come with a warning label
that says something like: DO NOT EXPOSE TO DIRECT SUNLIGHT, because
this is just not daytime listening material. As the title indicates,
these ten songs are intended to be heard in the wee small hours of the
early morning, preferably after a few stiff drinks.
Lanegan, who is probably better
known as the frontman for Seattleís only remaining bastion of grunge,
Screaming Trees, has a voice that sounds like heís been drinking glasses
of sand, but he writes the sort of desperate, dark blues tunes that
suit it perfectly. His first two solo albums, The Winding Sheet and
Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, established the fact that Lanegan likes
to use his alone-time to plum the depths of his tortured soul, and things
are only marginally brighter on Scraps at Midnight.
The albumís title is also fitting
since the songs themselves are in fact little more than scraps, small
pieces of a larger story that Laneganís been chronicling throughout
the decade. The same way old blues jaunts were more about feel than
anything else, Scraps works to set a mood but leaves most of the details
to the listener. The songs arenít about anything per se, at least nothing
too tangible, but that somehow allows them to be about everything --
your confused relationships, your failed ambitions, your lack of direction
-- hey, pick your favorite dead-end and Laneganís got a car to take
The music itself is never as
simple as it seems. Lanegan layers all sorts of sounds -- guitars, horns,
percussion, harmonica, feedback, and of course his gritty but strangely
soothing baritone vocals -- into the mix with just the right amount
of delicacy. If thereís a complaint worth making itís that the album
never really takes any steps into territory that Lanegan fans arenít
already familiar with. Then again if youíre into this sort of brooding
melancholia, Scraps at Midnight is exactly where you want to go anyway.