Mark Lanegan Band

(Beggars Banquet 2004)Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum

With a long career behind him, Mark Lanegan should not have to prove himself. Whether he intentionally tries to or not, each album the former Screaming Trees/former Queens of the Stone Age singer releases adds a few more coins to the pot and places higher expectations on future projects. And with his most recent release, "Bubblegum," hot on the tail of his EP (that should have been an album), "Here Comes That Weird Chill," Lanegan makes it clear he has a long career in front of him, as well. While perhaps more "accessible" than his previous albums, "Bubblegum" still puts the expected twist, with the help of a bevy of notable friends, on his unique blending of rock and blues.

Light and twinkling piano, like a gloomy children's lullaby, acts as the introduction to the slow "When Your Number Is Up" before loud and inviting, "Hit The City," a duet with PJ Harvey, steams in and the bumpy melody and chorus burn themselves to your memory. A dark rhythmic waltz, "Wedding Dress" is intriguing and beckons the listener to Lanegan. "Methamphetamine Blues," also heard on Lanegan's recent EP, clangs heavily with a gritty, full sound contrasting the softer "One Hundred Days" as the vocals, backed by Masters of Reality's Chris Goss' smooth voice, paints a poignant picture. Short like an old lost blues song, "Bombed" features only Lanegan, Wendy Rae Fowler and an acoustic guitar. Another lullaby, this time tender and heartbreaking, "Strange Religion" is understated and incredibly memorable.

Grabbing you roughly by the scruff of the neck, "Sideways In Reverse" is fast and catchy rock "˜n' roll. Returning to a blues sound, "Come To Me" includes Fowler's hauntingly soft voice while "Like Little Willie John" is an engaging tale of lost love that sees Lanegan stretching his voice unlike he does on any of the album's other tracks. Rhythmically quick, "Can't Come Down" adds squealing electric guitar in the background before offering "Morning Glory Wine," another gentle and memorable ballad. Up beat, at least instrumentally, and distinctive "Head" opens with a cut up sample of "Methamphetamine Blues" as the loud guitar rock of "Driving Death Valley Blues" offers just what its title promises. "And someday far from here I'll send a kiss/Out of nowhere," Lanegan promises on "Out Of Nowhere;" the song works well at tying the entire album together with smart instrumentation, including understated piano.

Despite a new moniker, an attempt at a new era, Lanegan is still, at the core of it, true to himself. Offering more of a variety of songs and styles than would be expected, the album is still focused and a welcome change of pace. "Bubblegum" is anything but difficult to chew with its ideal blending of thoughtful but heartbreaking lyrics with memorable, well executed instrumentation.


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