Mark Lanegan – Houston Publishing Demos 2002 – Album Review by Killian Laher
Mark Lanegan has been a solo artist since the early 90s, initially recording solo albums to free himself from the excesses of the (wonderful) Screaming Trees with more stripped-back, dark folk albums. However with the band splitting at the turn of the millennium, Lanegan embarked on a career as serial collaborator. In 2002 he provided killer contributions to Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf album, and this appeared to have a major effect on his solo career. Gone were the moody acoustic stylings, replaced by even moodier but less predictable hard rock.
It’s not clear why this collection, with a subtitle of Publishing Demos 2002, has been released now. Stylistically, it’s close to 2001’s Field Songs, and could have neatly, maybe too neatly, followed up this album. If you’re familiar with Lanegan’s early solo career you’ll know what to expect here, a bed of downbeat guitars with occasional keyboard, accordion and harmonica, framed by Lanegan’s gloriously grim vocals.
Proceedings begin with No Cross, a darkly uplifting ballad about kids who “stroll to rock and roll dead slow”. Two Horses starts like an early version of later B-side Mirrored, but some fine playing by his band (including sitar) takes it in another, bleaker direction. When It’s In You is the key track here. It’s an early, less abrasive version of Methamphetamine Blues, recast in a more traditional rock setting. Less interesting than the final version on Bubblegum, sure, but it provides a bridge between his earlier solo career and what came subsequently.
There are the occasional rays of sunshine towards the end of this album. Halcyon Daze features a sweet accordion while Lanegan almost cheerfully croons Nothing Much To Mention, and you could almost imagine the Screaming Trees performing A Suite For Dying Love. But by and large the controls are set to dark, as is usually the case with this artist. Many of the songs here are quite brief, such as the moody strum of High Life and the early, bare bones version of Grey Goes Black, which can give an impression of being slightly underwritten. However all the dark delights contained here, while not for everyone, have strong, developed melodies, comparing well with anything else Mark Lanegan has put his name to.
1. No Cross
2. Two Horses
3. When It’s In You (Methamphetamine Blues)
4. High Life
5. I’ll Go Where You Send Me
6. Grey Goes Black
7. The Primitives
9. Halcyon Daze
10. Nothing Much To Mention
11. A Suite For Dying Love
12. Way To Tomorrow