Mark Lanegan — Blues Funeral

52 Albums: Week 4

Mark Lanegan -- Blues Funeral

Blues Funeral, the latest solo album by Mark Lanegan, covers a lot of ground, not all of it good.

I’m still waiting for the first great album of 2012.  Listening to the opening track of Mark Lanegan’s new album, Blues Funeral, I thought I might have found it.  Here is a mean, gritty song with heavy hooks and Lanegan’s trademark growl.  Since his last solo album, Mark Lanegan has worked with artists as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age on one extreme and Isobell Campbell on the other; ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ successfully pulls together influences from both ends of the spectrum.

Give me a full album of songs in this vein and I would be a happy man but, alas, Lanegan had loftier ambitions and Blues Funeral is an album that finds him stretching his creative legs in multiple directions.  The album title is apt as many of the songs are bluesy dirges, such as the second track, ‘Bleeding Muddy Water,’ a song that would have benefited from being three minutes shorter.  But it’s not until track six, when the synths and drum machine kick in that the scope of Lanegan’s ambitions becomes clear.

That song, ‘Ode To Sad Disco,’ has been a bit hit with critics who view it as a sign of an artist who refuses to let himself be pigeon-holed but, to me, it has the feel of the sort of overly ambitious and occasionally embarrassing solo projects we used to get in the 80’s from artists like Robert Plant, Robbie Robertson and Lou Reed.  These albums had their highlights (indeed, I loved solo projects by all three artists when they came out) but, they also had a tendency to go horribly awry when the artist in question decided to express his love for Joy Division or some similarly ill-fitting influence.  The result then, as now, is the sort of album that critics love but that all but the most loyal of listeners will have completely forgotten in 30 years.

My lukewarm feelings for Blues Funeral are in the minority so you may want to check it out for yourself but, I give the album three stars.  It’s not an unmitigated disaster but, some ideas are better than others and lofty ambitions can cut both ways.

The full album is not on Spotify yet but you can listen to the single, The Gravedigger’s Song there.

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