November 25, 2009
The apex of MARK LANEGAN’s (born 1964) visibility came more than fifteen years ago as the lead singer of the feral Seattle band Screaming Trees during the apogee of that city’s fame as the rebirthplace of rock. Like his friend and fellow Washingtonian Kurt Cobain, Lanegan seemed wholly unsettled by the gaze of millions and chronically pained in his band (though chronic pain was part of that aesthetic, it must be said). Lanegan began recording solo albums during the Trees’ extended dénouement, exploring a spare sonic landscape closer to that of deranged roots-punk auteurs such as the Gun Club or the Nick Cave/Bad Seeds collective than to the anthemic guitar swamp that dominated Seattle. The Lanegan since, or at least the role he has developed, is a kind of musical C.W. Sughrue (from James Crumley’s 1978 novel Last Good Kiss, in which Sughrue teams up with fellow degenerate Abraham Trahearne), wandering through an imaginary American west, strung out, drunk, penitent but unredeemed. The women who appear are either saintly (Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian, P.J. Harvey) or reprobates like himself (Wendy Rae Fowler, P.J. Harvey). His twin masterpieces so far are his collection of folk/blues/roots covers, I’ll Take Care of You, and the debut album of the Mark Lanegan Band, Bubblegum. The latter title comes from the masterful, ethereal “Bombed,” a dreamy ode to intemperance countered by the driving, seductively intoxicating “Methamphetamine Blues.” Experiencing this song live, one surely would need to drive directly to the nearest church basement in search of some-sort-of-anon. Lanegan’s Sughrue seems finally to have found his Trahearne in the form of former Afghan Whig Greg Dulli: the two have released one album as The Gutter Twins, with another on the way. We’ll hope their ending turns out better.
Each day, HILOBROW pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.