Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral

No one does impending death quite like Mark Lanegan.

Label: 4AD

Rating: 6

Despite almost crossing over into the mainstream with his band of nascent grunge rockers, Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan’s solo career has consistently been a far more interesting proposition. His 1990 debut, ‘The Winding Sheet’, stripped back the guitar-and-flannel histrionics to reveal cathartic tales of campfire doom, a ploy which was perfected by the time of 1994’s ‘Whiskey For The Holy Ghost’.

Almost twenty years on from that magnum opus and Lanegan is still mired in the trenches of his own self-loathing with the rather predictably titled ‘Blues Funeral’. Of course, I’d never say anything negative about this album to his face; over the years, Lanegan has gradually come to resemble his own voice, a resonating, ashtray and bourbon soaked growl from the ends of the earth, both threatening and tortured in equal measure.

‘Blues Funeral’ rarely strays from the sonic template laid down by Lanegan, Josh Homme and Alain Johannes during their myriad collaborations under the Queens Of The Stone Age moniker. ‘Phantasmagoria Blues’ and ‘Riot In My House’ are practically indistinguishable from the latter band’s ‘Songs For The Deaf’ era, but more interestingly, Lanegan seems to be taking cues from the cream of synth pop darlings Erasure on ‘Ode To Sad Disco’ with its almost camp drum machine pulse; ditto ‘Harborview Hospital’, replete with shimmering keyboard arpeggios and closer ‘Tiny Grain Of Truth’, Lanegan crooning sparingly beneath shards of heavily treated guitars and sampled strings.

However, these are merely diversions on what is essentially a standard Mark Lanegan Band release. The only hold up is that the man is in danger of straying into self-parody, he’s been singing ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ for over twenty years now with still no sign of anything other than the hangman on his trail. And don’t get me wrong, no one does impending death quite like Mark Lanegan. But would it be too much to ask for a little more breathing space next time?