Blues Funeral is the seventh album released by Mark Lanegan this year. It has been a long awaited album since his success with his 2004 album, Bubblegum. After his long touring with the Soulsavers, The Gutter Twins and former Belle and Sebastian member, Isobel Campbell, Lanegan has created a wonderful set of tunes worth the wait. Lanegan had previously released six solo albums, which mostly compromised of blues and acoustic based music. Of course, his deep, scratchy vocals are still evident on his newest effort. Working with well-known producer and musician, Alain Johannes, in addition to working with a guitar, Lanegan experimented with keyboards and a drum machine, which is something he has not done before. Blues Funeral opens a new realm for Lanegan, as he still keeps his signature style of writing intact. Lanegan talked about how for his latest album, he used a “lot of the elements” from music that influences him. He stated that he wanted to make a record that he himself would listen to personally and listed The Gun Club’s Miami, Joy Division’s Closer, and Roxy Music’s Country Life as his primary influences.
Blues Funeral kicks off with its first released single, “The Gravedigger’s Song”. What is most evident in this song is Lanegan’s use of the drum machine, although Jack Irons plays percussion on the entire album. It’s upbeat and serves as the perfect start for the album. “Bleeding Muddy Water” is a slow tempo tune with a dark, gloomy atmosphere. “Grey Goes Black” is where we see Lanegan’s post-punk, new wave influence. It has a light beat, backed by dream like guitar riffs. This would definitely be perfect for a night time drive. “St. Louis Elegy” is another soft tempo tune with use of mostly the drum machine and keyboards. Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs lends backing vocals on this track. “Riot in My House” is one of the highlights of this album. It’s loud, raunchy feel gives off untamable energy. Although it does not have prominent use of the keyboards, it showcases Lanegan’s vocals and how diverse it is. Guitarist Josh Homme of the Queens of the Stone Age and Lanegan’s best friend lends the lead guitar riff to this track. “Ode To Sad Disco” features mostly keyboards and a drum machine. Hence the title, the song has a disco feel to it. This is one of the most unusual combinations of having Lanegan’s vocals on 80s post-punk type music. “Phantasmagoria Blues” is another highlight with its mysterious and gloomy feel. “Quiver Syndrome” is the low point of the album with no true dynamic, though a fun song. Lanegan’s influences again arise in “Harborview Hospital”. This is another highlight of the album. It has a sweet tone with a dance like groove. “Leviathan” has an interesting sound as Lanegan plays around with keyboard. The ending features Chris Goss with backing vocals as both vocalists fade out. “Deep Black Vanishing Train” is another highlight on the album. This is one of the very few songs on the record that Lanegan uses an acoustic guitar on, which is unusual for someone whose albums feature prominent use of acoustic guitar. The album ends with “Tiny Grain of Truth”, which uses essentially the same electronic influences, though it is my least favorite track. Blues Funeral may not be for everyone who likes Mark Lanegan. He is, albeit, a diverse musician and has worked with many different styles of music. Fans of his previous albums would enjoy Blue Funeral, unless they are looking for another acoustic based album. His other works and collaborations are different from his latest album and should be considered for a listen. His vocals are apt to many different moods and if anyone is a fan of his smoky and dark vocals, then Blues Funeral will no disappoint. The title of the album illustrates a little of what the themes of the album are. Its dark lyrics are similar to those by Ian Curtis of Joy Division. The combination of synthesized instruments and Lanegan’s grunge like vocals give a compelling and interesting listen. -Amirata Mahallati