Review Summary: ...
Mark Lanegan's first solo album in 8 years, 'Blues Funeral', is one heavy dose of sheer hopelessness just like we have come to know and wait from the singer. His dark, coarse voice shapes the album's atmosphere whatever the songs may sound like. While his haunting vocals have also been a more or less of a endurance test for the outsiders, he has also penned unforgettable dark beauty into his music, worthy of notice.
As a whole, the album borders on blues with electronic experimenting, keeping all the way the sadness and the despair Lanegan has always aimed to go deeper and deeper into. First single, "The Gravedigger's Song" holds an overdriven bass and a pulsing echoing guitar while him singing about a love long gone ("To the stars my love/To the sea/To the wheels my love/Till they roll all over me"). The music gives an urgent tone, while the lyrics set the mood the entire album boasts. "St. Louis Elegy" is a good example of the album's mechanized blues sound. Starting with a drum machine and a synth bass, the songs holds the funeral-like sound with reverbed guitars that give an almost eerie atmosphere with Lanegan putting his distinct touch over it. The song is really beautiful, giving the listener a 1800's western feeling.
Another song that really works is the dark disco of "Ode To Sad Disco". The techno synths and the slide guitar make this track really memorable while Lanegan shifts from low to higher vocals, giving his best attempt at a falsetto. The lyrics again give a gloomy western feel "A mountain of dust burns in your mouth/ Here there's no north, just south").
Not all songs sound sad and hopeless though, "Gray Goes Black" starts with some lovely guitar licks and a cool driving bass, but as soon as Mark starts singing he drowns the song in his turgid darkness. Also, 'Blues Funeral''s few rockers "Riot In My House" and "Quiver Syndrome" raise the album from the rather slow hellish vibe, atracting the listener's attention from the lyrics still encased in the impending doom.
Towards the end of the album the songs tend to just flow with less of an identity the first half of the album has. For Lanegan's fans this is not necessarily a bad thing because the songs are not bad at all, but for the newcomers it might be harder to follow. However, "Harborview Hospital" shines with its dreamy guitars, a simple, effective bass line and lovely vocals. Also, "Tiny Grain Of Truth", which sounds a bit scattered has a brass section akin to a funeral march that really brings the record to a stark end.
'Blues Funeral' is a really dark album that offers some great music from the always steady Mark Lanegan. The album is more suitable for the fans but it's also a good start for newcomers too. But, since all the songs are aimed to dig deeper and deeper into sadness and loneliness you never know if his feelings are along the way or it's just fiction.