Mark Lanegan hasn’t walked through the darkest alleys of the city since 2004, when he released “Bubblegum”, his biggest hit so far. Since then, he has shared the studio and stage with Isobel Campbell, Queens Of The Stone Age, Soulsavers and The Gutter Twins, and with each project, Lanegan became a little bit less Lanegan. There's a lot of music still to be made that features the former Screaming Tree's vocal projection, his dark melodies and the strong artistic personality that can be felt behind that wolf-like mask. You get the feeling that, with Lanegan, you’ll always be left wanting more - whether that be because his records are short - or come with long periods in between - or because it sounds like he would be perfectly capable of writing more music, if only someone would lock him up with nothing but a guitar and a recorder.
The thing is, his much awaited return to the forefront, “ Blues Funeral”, seems to be a consequence of all the collaborating with others: it's a strange, varied album, sometimes danceable, sometimes impossibly soft, almost sleepy. Although the themes are still dark (like a kind of folk noir) and the moods tense (like on “The Gravedigger’s Song” and “S t. Louis Elegy”, the tracks most in the vein of “Bubblegum”), it's clear that Lanegan is trying to, albeit timidly, change his register, and tred on intimate paths. “Harborview Hospital”, for example, features warm guitars and a sound reminiscent of all kinds of bands, except Lanegan himself. While “Bubblegum” was an example of black vocal magic, “Riot in my House” is an empty and carnivalesque magician's suit. It doesn't help when Lanegan plays powerhouse rock (“ Quiver Syndrome”) or turns into a toy Tom Waits (“ Leviathan”). He still sounds like a pet dog (“Gray Goes Black”), no matter how up-tempo he gets on “Ode To Sad Disco”. At this point, Lanegan shouldn't be experimenting with electronica (“ Tiny Grain Of Truth”), nor should he sound so clear, nor should he be pretending his soul escaped from some kind of reformatory. Because he still comes from the field of anxious mid-tempo songs (“ Bleeding Muddy Water”), from the most corrupted love songs, from extreme solitude. We wouldn't want him to become one of those big artists whose records nobody can listen to completely.