Wednesday, February 8, 2012
A low, portentous, throbbing, tachycardic electronic pulse hits you in the chest, and before you know it space is rent in twain by that familiar, fearsome baritone... "With piranha teeth I've been dreaming of you".
So begins "The Gravedigger's Song", the opening salvo from The Mark Lanegan Band's positively Earth-scorching new album Blues Funeral. I listened to it beginning to end twice on the evening of its release and was reduced to a quivering puddle of goo by night's end. It is one of the finest rekkids of the young decade. It is arguably the best work of Lanegan's stellar career. It is easily my early front-runner for best album of 2012. It is therefore, of course, my new fav'rit rekkid.
I really can't get over how instantly enamored of this rekkid I've become. I've been a big supporter of Lanegan for some time. The Screaming Trees were one of the few grunge bands for whom I ever had any real time; his previous solo efforts are all fabulous; the Sinatra/Hazlewood-esque duet albums with Isobel Campbell are inspired; he has lent his stunning whiskey-on-the-literal-gravel-rocks to many collaborations (Mojo just aptly described him as "the go-to guy for subterranean menace") over the years with consistently delicious effect; but I really feel that this is his finest work.
For a man so indelibly "American" (indeed, the overwhelming undercurrent here is hard desert doomsday rawk filtered through the pure soil of blues and Americana), it is remarkable the way Lanegan weaves his European influences into his sound. Tracks like "Gray Goes Black", "Ode to Sad Disco" and closer "Tiny Grain of Truth" all evince his love of Euro-electronica, Krautrock, and the darker side of 80's British synth-pop (but for Lanegan's voice, "Gray Goes Black" could be a long lost New Order track), all while never losing that distinctly Western (emphasis on West) Lanegan feel.
The album as a whole is comprised of a rich - albeit dark (what? you were expecting "Shiny Happy People?") - tapestry of textures. Compelling dirges and post-modern blues ("Bleeding Muddy Waters", "Deep Black Vanishing Train") mesh seamlessly with driving rockers ("Quiver Syndrome", "Riot in My House") as well as the aforementioned electro-clad art-rockers. The lush array of textures on display within each track is even more astounding. Layers of guitar, subtle smatterings of creepy keys, and trickles and waves of acoustic and electronic percussion abound throughout the rekkid. "Phantasmagoria Blues" is a bubbling and swirling... well... phantasmagoria of sonic texture. The vertiginous whirlwind canon of backing vocals that engulfs Lanegan's lead at the end of "Leviathan" is absolutely breathtaking.
It's been seven years since Lanegan's last proper solo outing Bubblegum. Let's hope we don't need to wait another seven for the next. But if we must, and Blues Funeral is any indicator, it will be well worth the wait.