Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral

It has been six years since Mark Lanegan last put out an album under his own name, or at least the moniker ‘Mark Lanegan Band’. During this break between solo records, the longest in his career, he has kept himself busy releasing and appearing with band projects like The Gutter Twins and Queens of The Stone Age, a string of acclaimed records with Isobel Campbell as well as guest appearances on records with The Twilight Singers and Soulsavers. It is the influence of these other projects that help his seventh record, Blues Funeral, make its mark.

The cinematic production values from Alain Johannes define much of the records sound but it’s the influence of English production duo Soulsavers is the most obvious. Ode To Sad Disco haunts across an undeniably fun electronic back beat and Keli Hlodversson sample while Phantasmagoria Blues seems to slowly expand to unknown horizons over sonic blips and sirens. There is a definite keyboard bent to this record and Quiver Syndrome’s four-on-the-floor attack is practically begging you to dance.

While the keys and trip hop beats may turn some heads Lanegan’s trademark whiskey soaked husk remains unchanged. Like the feeling of stubble against your cheek when hugging a loved one, Lanegan’s voice is abrasive enough to catch your attention but warm and inviting as it embraces your ears pleasure centres. It’s his voice that legitimises his occasional foray into blues lyrical cliche (“Lord, now the rain done come” – Bleeding Muddy Water ) and stops lyrics like “Is this the way they say Jesus came?” turning the sweeping majesty of St Louis Elegy into a gospel standard.

It is interesting to note that, for a man attached to so many strong rock records, the rockers tend to be the low points for the record. Bleeding Muddy Water trudges on for a little too long and Riot In My House features a guest appearance from Josh Homme on guitar that overbears more that it adds. It’s not all downhill on the rock front though; The Gravediggers Song’s thrives on a relentless bass line and Leviathan smoulders over a menacing riff that lurks underneath like its namesake.

Blues Funeral works because it stepped outside its boundaries and tried something new, all the while still bearing Mark Lanegan’s well-loved craggy fingerprints. This is not a reinvention, or Cornell style bandwagon jumping, but a natural expansion on a strong foundation. We can only hope it’s not another six years before we see where he goes next.