Remembering Mark Lanegan with 8 Essential Songs
It’s impossible to talk about Mark Lanegan’s legacy without mentioning his band Screaming Trees. The Seattle band predated the city’s grunge explosion of the early ’90s by a good half-decade, but were still well positioned to benefit, however briefly, by landing a coveted spot on the defining era. the time. Simple soundtrack. For most of the millions of people who bought this record in the months after its 1992 release, Mark Lanegan’s story begins and ends with the contribution of the Trees, a frenzied rocker called “Nearly Lost You”. But what’s amazing about Lanegan is how, year after year, the singer has made this commercial milestone a footnote in a journey that has seen him survive grunge and outlive his most famous friends on the scene to become one of the biggest names in rock. venerable wanderers.
Throughout his life, Lanegan had seen and experienced so much bullshit that he needed two memoirs to cover it all. But despite all the stories of drug addiction that permeate his backstory, Lanegan’s focus on music has never wavered. He did many of it, with many different people, and often in surprising contexts. While his guttural voice, menacing stage presence and piercing gaze have earned him an unwavering reputation as a post-grunge grim reaper – much like Nick Cave with knuckle tattoos and a battered baseball cap – the discography sprawling by Lanegan presents an artist constantly in search of the beauty that life has so often denied him. He was always looking for new ways to release the sacredness of a song, whether through folk, blues, metal, hardcore, funk, trip-hop or electronic music. Trying to condense a career as vast and varied as Lanegan’s into a brief list can be a maddening rush, but here are eight songs that served as crucial stops on his never-ending path to redemption.
Mark Lanegan: “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (1990)
Even before the Screaming Trees got big, Lanegan was eager to carve out a musical identity separate from his main band’s psych-rock throwbacks (most of which were penned by fraternal Trees founders Van and Gary Lee Conner). ). For his first extracurricular outing, Lanegan attempted to cover a batch of songs by blues legend Lead Belly with the help of fellow up-and-coming local musicians named Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, alongside Trees drummer Mark Pickerel.
The project, dubbed the Jury, lasted no more than two sessions in 1989, but their ominous rendition of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – featuring Cobain on backing vocals – was salvaged for Lanegan’s simmering solo debut. , The winding sheet, published the following year. The album flew largely under the radar, and its seminal cover was all but forgotten when, three years later, Cobain appropriated the song from the legendary Nirvana. MTV unplugged tape. But as Dave Grohl will say later rolling stonethis performance was as much a tribute to Lanegan as it was to Lead Belly: “The winding sheet is one of the greatest albums of all time,” Grohl said. “It had a huge influence on our Unplugged thing.”
Howling Trees: “Bed of Roses” (1991)
When you revisit Screaming Trees today, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the band’s paisley sound with the intimidating image Lanegan later cultivated. The band’s first major label, Uncle Anesthesiacame out eight months before Nirvana’s It does not matter in 1991, narrowly missing the gold mine of grunge. Then again, her debut single, “Bed of Roses,” wasn’t exactly grungy at all, instead gesturing to loud REM sounds As the long-haired, leather-clad Lanegan seen in the song’s video watches it all the bar-brawling rocker, his voice—deep and resonant, but yet to show the ravages of a hard life—suggests that, had the cultural tides turned, Lanegan might have been America’s Morrissey.
Mark Lanegan: “Kimiko’s Dream House” (2001)
After the Trees’ 1996 album Dust failed to capitalize on their post-Simple bump, Lanegan’s solo career became his primary outlet. His records dug even deeper into country, blues and soul, their quieter presentation bringing out the raspy resonance of his voice. On this understated beauty from 2001 Field songsLanegan pays a final tribute to The Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the hero-turned-friend who created the underground vault for blues-loving punks in the early ’80s. “Kimiko’s Dream House” sees him complement the lyrics of an unfinished song Pierce had given her shortly before his death in 1996. And Lanegan seems genuinely humbled by the opportunity, delivering one of the smoothest and most graceful performances of his career.
Lanegan could afford to relax on his solo records because he had an open invitation to growl to his heart’s content with America’s premier hard rock band of the turn of the century. Lanegan debuted in Queens of the Stone Age in the 2000s To classify, singing along to the grunge-soul groover “In the Fade.” But two years later, on “Song for the Dead,” Lanegan harnessed the full demonic potential of his hellish howl; even Grohl’s fast-paced drumming seems to cower in his presence, signaling the singer’s entrance as he shifts from full-throttle thrash to a seasick grind. the song with Queens around this time did more to shape his image as a doomsayer than anything else in his canon.
Mark Lanegan: “The Meth Blues” (2004)
Just as his associations with Nirvana helped Screaming Trees get ahead in the early 90s, Lanegan’s Queens of the Stone Age tenure had an invigorating effect on his solo career, both commercially and aesthetically. . Her first album to chart internationally, 2004 Chewing gum, uprooted the earthy qualities of Lanegan’s previous solo albums in favor of broken drum machine beats and atomic fuzz, as exemplified by the raucous industrial funk of “Methamphetamine Blues”. Borrowing a page from the Queens supergroup’s playbook, Lanegan assembled an all-star cast for the album that included PJ Harvey, Josh Homme, Greg Dulli and Duff McKagan and Guns N’ Roses’ Izzy Stradlin, paving the way for the next iteration of Lanegan. as rock’s most voracious collaborator.
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan: “Honey, what can I do? (2006)
Of all the artists Lanegan has associated with over the years, his most surprising remains Isobel Campbell, who sang and played cello for indie-pop aesthetes Belle and Sebastian back when Lanegan and the Trees were still dominating the charts. mosh pits in Lollapalooza. But rather than amplifying the stark contrast between Lanegan’s low croon and Campbell’s pristine tone with typical he said/she said duets, their three albums together define a middle ground. Their voices are layered in flawed harmonies that can sound both charming and, at times, a little unsettling, with Campbell sounding less like Lanegan’s singing partner and more like a voice trapped in his head. But this 2006 orchestral-soul delight Ballad of the Broken Seas emphasizes pure joy and deep mutual respect in their odd couple, with the two doing like Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood performing in a late ’60s variety special.
The Gutter Twins: “Idle Hands” (2008)
Where Lanegan’s solo records have probed the darkest nights of his soul with an unwavering documentarian eye, Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers author Greg Dulli has done the same through a seedy cinematic lens. After guesting on each other’s records, a full union between these two dark princes of alternative rock was almost inevitable. Their one and only album together as the Gutter Twins, Saturnaliasounds like the musical version of the long-awaited Pacino / De Niro match in Heat—a tense game of cat-and-mouse between two cunning veterans set against an extravagant rock-noir backdrop. Had it been released, say, a dozen years earlier, the punchy “Idle Hands” might very well have turned out to be a bigger hit than anything the Trees or the Whigs released at the time. .
Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe: “Turn Inside Out” (2021)
The last musical project that Mark Lanegan released during his lifetime now looks like a symbolic passing of the torch between two generations of unclassifiable outsiders. Dark Mark vs. Skeleton Joe was the short-lived partnership with Lanegan and Joe Cardamone of the Icarus line, another punk-raised artist who briefly flirted with big-label backed notoriety before leaving the noise behind to pursue a path quieter art-pop. . While Lanegan was no stranger to synths at this point, the duo’s self-titled debut from last year marked their first full foray into Moroder electro-disco, and “Turning in Reverse” is the dramatic, strobe tour. from the album. of strength. It’s both Mark Lanegan’s most atypical and perfectly iconic song, one that packs a whole world of pain into its four minutes while embodying the relentless creative spirit of an artist who never stopped searching. .