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Blues Funeral
Mark Lanegan Band Blues Funeral
Released 3 February 2012
Producer Alain Johannes
Label 4AD
Length 55:27
Genre Alt rock, blues
Website www.marklanegan.com

It’s been eight long years since Mark Lanegan released his last solo album, the masterful Bubblegum. In that time he’s managed to record three albums with Isobel Campbell, two with Soulsavers, one with Greg Dulli under the Gutter Twins moniker as well as popping up with some notable guest appearances on Twilight Singers, Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal and U.N.K.L.E. albums; the man has been busy. He has finally found time in his busy schedule to record on his own terms with Blues Funeral and any worries that he may be spreading himself too thin are proven to be unfounded as he delivers yet another masterpiece.

Blues Funeral is a stark and contemplative album filled with Lanegan’s trademark bleak imagery; no one can write modern day anger and despair quite like him and quotable lines are thrown around with reckless abandon with classics like, "There’s a riot in my house / Chaos is blossoming" ('Riot In My House') or, "If tears were liquor I’d have drunk myself sick" ('St Louis Elegy'). His lyrics are as razor sharp as ever and represent that dual persona of anger and sensitivity that makes him such an intriguing character.

Lanegan has put together an impressive backing band, many of whom are no doubt repaying him the favour of guesting on their albums. A lot of credit has to go to Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of The Stone Age) who plays a huge part on the album assuming production, engineering and mixing duties as well as backing vocals and various (in fact most) instruments. Jack Irons (Eleven, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Dave Catching (QOTSA, Eagles of Death Metal), Josh Homme (QOTSA), Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) Martyn LeNoble (Porno For Pyros) and Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) all appear for stints of varying length, proving the high regard that Lanegan is held in by his peers. The only negative with the lineup is the lack of someone like PJ Harvey for Lanegan to engage with as they did on Bubblegum, a small gripe given the standard of songs.

Lanegan is still capable of throwing the odd curve ball and this comes in the form of the electro pop sound that recurs with surprising frequency. The first instance is on 'Gray Goes Black' a song for which I initially admonished myself for drawing parallels to Visage's 'Fade To Gray'. However unlikely this link may seem the electro beat of 'Ode to Sad Disco' later confirms Lanegan has drawn quite a bit of influence from the eighties for this album. It's a strange turn of pace for one of the founding fathers of grunge but once you get over the shock it fits in perfectly with the overall ambiance of the album.

Blues Funeral is filled with incredible tracks, from the menacing opener 'The Gravedigger's Song' through the mesmerising 'Harborview Hospital' to the simply sublime 'Deep Black Vanishing Train' Lanegan delivers on so many different levels. The intensity and the dark subject matter mean it's not an album for everyone but fans of Lanegan will revel in another superb release.

- Brian Kinsella