written by Chris Familton
It has been one hell of a long break between drinks for Mark Lanegan and the follow-up to 2004’s Bubblegum, though one could never accuse the man of resting on his laurels in the intervening years. As prolific a collaborator as they come, Lanegan has worked with Queens of the Stone Age, The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, Soulsavers and Isobel Campbell; lending his deep and weary voice to everything from gothic americana to dark electronica.
On Blues Funeral Lanegan has maintained connections with some of his friends (Alain Johannes, Greg Dulli and Josh Homme) and produced a collection of songs that touch on all corners of his musical travels over the last eight years. Pure rock in the vein of Screaming Trees is buried deep beneath the surface of most songs as the production sheen and the prevalence of synths take the general sound into an electronic rock realm. The opener The Gravedigger’s Song (and The Cult-like Riot in My House) is straight from the QOTSA book and not particularly memorable but thankfully it is only a a minor false start as Bleeding Muddy Water resets his compass by stripping away the bombast, slowing the pace and shifting the focus to Lanegan’s voice – his strongest asset.
The themes on Blues Funeral are not surprisingly centered around death, mourning and the dark corners of the mind. This is where Lanegan excels, marrying that downtrodden voice with emotionally wrought lyrics. Perhaps the most surprising moments come when synths take centre-stage on songs like Ode To Sad Disco and the U2 meets New Order beauty of Harborview Hospital. Those and Lanegan’s trademark dark ballads are high-points of an album that works best when he eschews the big rock moments and spends more time in intimate and ultimately more revealing places.
Blues Funeral is out now via 4AD/Remote Control
this review was first published in The Drum Media