mon 21/09/2020

Album: Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow

Album: Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow

The intense exploration of a tortured soul

Dark selfie of an album

There are few albums as relentlessly dark as Mark Lanegan's latest: the raw and intense exploration of a tortured soul. This stuff is a few circles of hell deeper than anything Leonard Cohen ever did, and when the Canadian poet of melancholy "wanted it darker", the sombre tones and slowness were always laced with Jewish irony.

There are few albums as relentlessly dark as Mark Lanegan's latest: the raw and intense exploration of a tortured soul. This stuff is a few circles of hell deeper than anything Leonard Cohen ever did, and when the Canadian poet of melancholy "wanted it darker", the sombre tones and slowness were always laced with Jewish irony.

Lanegan has just written a well-received memoir, Sing Backwards And Weep, in which he gives a heart-wrenching account of years of inner turmoil and drug excess. The new album was inspired by his autobiographical journey, and shares with it a searingly honest scalpel-sharp dissection of his psyche. This isn't just warts and all, but the full cast of ghosts, devils and gaping graves that inhabit this cursed but gifted artist's imagination. "I'm ugly inside and out" he sings, elsewhere "my heart is black as night", and then a repeated mantra of "I'm haunted". No pussyfooting with self-hate here, but a resolute exploration of a tortured life, his lyrics sharpened by the pain of authentic suffering. He's lucid rather than confessional, which saves the day, although the mood's a little monochrome, with little change throughout the 15 songs, 

Musically, though, the album is truly inspired. Lanegan is joined by inventive and original talents, such as Warren Ellis, Adrian Utley, Greg Dulli, Ed Harcourt, while his wife Shelley Brien is co-writer of some of the songs and joint vocalist on another. The textures, a mix of subtle electronica, treated guitars and keyboards and aptly muffled drums, suit the material well. A descent into Hades, the territory of the shades, requires sounds to match. This isn't an album you'd want to dance to, unless you were going to to do a slow-mo impro around grief and death. The album ends with something like resolution with the song "Eden Lost and Found". "I'm so glad to be free", he finally admits, and yet, with its dirge-like feel, this is more like resignation than a liberation from the demons that still rest somewhere in his profoundly troubed soul.

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