Death and All His Friends

Death and All His Friends

Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (4AD)
February 6, 2012

Mark Lanegan's distinctive baritone has cut a delicious path through a myriad of genres over the years, lending a sense of reverence to the work of Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, and of course - his divine collaborations with ex-Belle & Sebastian musical Isobel Campbell. Blues Funeral is easily the finest album of the year so far, as Lanegan turns his hand to several different styles but retaining a common thread of beauty and melancholy throughout the twelve tracks on offer.

The relentless opener (and lead single) 'The Gravedigger's Song' in fact evokes Songs for the Deaf-era QOTSA, with its rumbling drums, relentless baseline and Lanegan's compelling vocal delivering the first of many dark tales. Its immediate successor, the bluesy 'Bleeding Muddy Water', is equally evocative for different reasons. Excellently produced (dig those eerie squeaky guitar effects), its minimalistic approach is mesmeric and a bit creepy - clearly a case of textbook case of 'less is more'.

Elsewhere, the album is full of variety, from rockier numbers like 'Quiver Syndrome', 'Gray Goes Black' and 'Riot in My House' (with kudos hereby granted to the latter's magnificent lyrical referencing of "# death's metal broom #") to the ambient, almost shoegazey vibe of 'Harborview Hospital'. 'Ode to Sad Disco' even harks to New Order's glory days in its soaring chorus, while the bluesy 'Levathian' sounds like the kind of song that's been passed down through generations.

Even the album's weaker moments are saved in part by Lanegan's storytelling qualities. 'St Louis Elegy's thought-provoking line "# If tears were liquor, I'd have drunk myself sick #" would have been totally forgettable if sung by a lesser voice. Dance-tinged closer 'Tiny Grain of Truth' is elevated to a status level of 'mildly interesting' with its haunting, distorted fanfare and detuned radio-style glitches of guitar - again, another excellently produced track from Alain Johannes. Long-term devotees will love this album, and newcomers will be easily seduced.

words: Kate Goodacre

Mark Lanegan Band play the following UK shows: Academy, Bristol (March 4), Academy 2, Manchester (5), Mandela Hall, Belfast (8), ABC, Glasgow (9), The Cockpit, Leeds (10), Library, Birmingham (12) and Shepherds Bush Empire, London (13).