AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #321: MARK LANEGAN (2)

A GUEST POSTING by HSP

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RIP, Mark Lanegan – You Cover Song Genius and Collaborative Giant

Apologies for the long time away, it’s been an adventure these last few years… far less music in it than there should have been.

I haven’t sorted the Screaming Trees ICA I’d like to do but it was always a toss-up whether I loved the Connor brothers’ psychedelic metal tendencies or Mark Lanegan’s voice more. If you remember back to the Son Volt ICA, it was Jay Farrar‘s voice that was the reason behind my choice of them over Wilco and it’s the kind of thing that matters a great deal to me, whether I like a singers’ voice. E.g., I don’t know why I want to strangle Geddy Lee, but love Tom Verlaine, but there it is… why listening to Jon Anderson is like fingernails on the chalkboard but Vic Chesnutt gave me goosebumps… why Perry Farrell should never ever have been handed a mic but I’ll listen to Mark E. Smith until the cows come home.

In any event, I first heard Lanegan fronting the Trees in the between-bands music in a small Monterey, California, venue after the Dharma Bums (why I went, from Portland, OR) had played and before The Posies (who were OK, if a bit twee for me) performed. I’m pretty sure the place just played Uncle Anesthesia all the way through, probably on CD but for all I know they could easily have had a turntable working. I was smitten by the time the title tune played and then “Caught in Between”… it was like hearing the lysergic world of the early Pebbles collections for the first time, for a second time. The music was great but the singer’s voice was broken and gnarled and knew things beyond my ken.

I went through the back catalog and bought Sweet Oblivion and Dusk but the band was never meant for a major label and those albums implied that there was tension within the band, between the band and producers, between band, producers and the label and… well the scene out from which they came was dying and major labels responded to MP3s and Napster by clearing their rosters of great second tier sellers… how to kill a band in one easy lesson.

Lanegan had a solo record or two out by the time the Trees broke up but they hadn’t grabbed me. Retrospectively, and I haven’t read any interviews or accounts of what was going on, it felt like he was searching for another voice, or a set of other voices… or maybe it was the drugs. He’d seemed to have found it on “Pendulum” from Whiskey for the Holy Ghost and in the two drug songs, “Hospital Roll Call” and “Waiting on a Train,” from Scraps at Midnight, but it wasn’t consistent and I couldn’t be sure he’d ever find it and hold on to it.

As far as I can tell, and I was getting married, experiencing tragedy, fighting/failing to earn tenure, and we had two sons… so what do I know, but playing with Queens of the Stone Age and making other peoples’ songs his own seemed to get him over a hump… or maybe it was temporarily beating the drugs. When I heard his version of the Leaving Trains“Creeping Coastline of Lights” I was somewhere between flabbergasted, gobsmacked and giddy. (Check it out, and the original, neither are here, both are on youtube.) And the rest of I’ll Take Care of You is SO SO good… Field Songs was an improvement, Bubblegum was a lot of fun, but the covers and collaborations he did, I don’t know it was like he was a jazz singer perfecting a standard repertoire of non-standard tunes.

And that brings me to the construction of this ICA. I think what grabbed me from the start with Lanegan was that his voice couldn’t fail but broadcast an interpretation, whatever lyrics he or someone else wrote. What came out of him contained part of him, raw, DIY-over-professional, and true… it’s like the labour theory of value only really different. So, this is a collection organized from quieter to louder – because that’s how I liked to structure the radio shows I used to program – and it’s all covers and collaborations.

  1. War Memorial (Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood) from Black Pudding
  2. Constant Waiting (Jeffrey Lee Pierce) from We Are Only Riders tribute album
  3. The Man In The Long Black Coat (Bob Dylan) from I’m Not There soundtrack
  4. All Night Long (Junior Kimbrough) from Sunday Night tribute album
  5. You Will Miss Me When I Burn (Bonny Prince Billy), Soulsavers from Broken
  6. The Lonely Night Moby from The Lonely Night (Jan. 14 Remix)
  7. I’Il Take Care of You (Brook Benton) from I’ll Take Care of You
  8. Where We Part Ways, Domkraft from Slow Fidelity EP
  9. God Is On the Radio, Queens of the Stone Age from Songs for the Deaf
  10. Crawl Like A Dog, Creature With The Atom Brain from Creature With The Atom Brain

I’m sure there are tons I don’t know that might should have landed here but, please, tell me about them below.

Yours, as always, and again,

HSP

2 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #321: MARK LANEGAN (2)

  1. Good to see you back… and what an entrance.

    What I consider to be a ‘singer’ in a band is essential to the listening experience.

    When I first heard Screaming Trees in the late 80s I was moved by the voice and loved the music – a marriage made in musical heaven.

    It seems disloyal somehow to point to one voice when many aspects complete a song but I genuinely don’t think I’d be ‘into’ Screaming Trees in quite the way I am without that voice.

    I’ve a lot of catching up to do – I know only a couple of these songs.

    My interest was piqued again when Mark collaborated with Isobel Campbell – utterly beautiful.

    Thanks for this ICA. It’s a fantastic trubute.

  2. That’s a grand re-entrance, HSP. Also the only way to demonstrate Lanegan’s versatility and range while remaining wholly himself. It’s telling that of these 10 great songs there’s no overlap with the 10 on ICA 307–all of which came from different albums!

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