Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral

Sophie Metcalfe makes her reviewing debut, and does it really rather brilliantly:

It’s strange to feel nostalgia from an album that you’re only greeting for the first time, but it struck head-on from the moment I introduced myself to Blues Funeral. Crawling out of bed (rusty from the night before), I played track one and found myself thrown right back there. I taste the dark spirits, smell the poorly rolled cigarettes and can hear the garbled banter. Despite my hazy brain, I am quite content sitting with Lanegan at the kitchen table, as his familiar blues riffs take me through fractured memories from last night.

Not only does Lanegan earn himself a place in my Tom Waits book of ‘well-whiskeyed voices’ but he also has the power to thread this somewhat eclectic album together. You’re greeted with a rolling bass-line and lusty layered guitar in Gravediggers Song – which is reminiscent of his dabbling with QOTSA – only to be then soothed back into familiar and faultless blues songs such as Bleeding Muddy Water and St Louis Elegy. They transpose me to my teenage years when my uncle would chew my ear off about New Orleans and hand me a pile of dusty albums for homework.

I settled all too comfortably with this sound only to be then hit with instances of a 90’s drum machine in Ode to Sad Disco, pop-rock choruses in Quiver Syndrome and did I hear a flute in those last few tracks? I’m left wondering what game is Lanegan playing (reaching for my plate of greased-up hangover breakfast).

An interesting exercise would be to gut the vocals from these tracks and see if they still held together as brothers from the one gene pool. But that’s ok. If you can view this album as a montage of his musical career, it is a fascinating insight into the breadth of influences and musical capabilities of Lanegan. He dips into the pot of many genres in Blues Funeral, but does it humbly and does it well. With no need to include any 20-minute power licks to prove this past, the songs aren’t huge feats but rather unassuming and skilfully executed. It is in some ways an old rocker’s ‘screw you’ to a society drowned with fad indie riffs and bird-like-synth-girls breathing down a microphone. After all, Lanegan has been there and back again and has the voice to prove it.

Review by Sophie Metcalfe