No Bells on Sunday
No one is going to tell Mark Lanegan to slow down – it might be a couple of years since the last official Mark Lanegan Band studio release – but there was a covers album, a collection of songs with Duke Garwood, the usual handful (or more) of cameo appearances, and a box-set best-of, there’s even a brand new full-lengther from the Lanegan Band just around the corner.
And that’s just what he’s released…
I do think Lanegan gets a bit of a free-pass these days, that voice is wonderful, magical even – but there’s been some average-at-best material. The idea of an EP appeals and so here’s exactly that, just five songs – I like this idea, it’s probably all I need to hear from him in a single setting (though the overall effect of this is somewhat ruined by the fact it’s a mere taster of an album that’s on its way/this will possibly be teamed up with that album).
Now look, maybe this will make even more sense when the album’s out – but I like everything on No Bells On Sunday – and I like it as a standalone release. The opener, Dry Iced, sees a perfect refinement of Lanegan’s brand of blues when paired with an electro template. The title track takes that idea, and moments leftover from the Black Pudding record maybe – and adds in the flow and effect of what you might imagine if Lanegan was working with Dead Can Dance (incidentally – wouldn’t that fucking be something!? Well, we get close to hearing how that might work right here).
Sad Lover is a more straight-ahead rocker – not a great song as such, not in and of itself, but as the middle-track on this EP it’s great. Deceptive in its simplicity even.
Then we get that version of the Murder Ballad that Lanegan has peddling since he first went solo – in fact just as his reading of Where Did You Sleep Last Night (and the way he’ll turn almost any cover, say his version of Pink Floyd’s Julia Dream) it’s part psychedelic blues, part grunge, part folk-blues murder ballad. Here the song is Jonas Pap and at just 2.30 it’s remarkable for feeing like a much longer song (in the best possible way).
The closer, Smokestack Magic, has the whirr of what could almost be Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls intro on repeat in the background (if you know Gate’s extrapolation of/on that theme then imagine that) and here our man does his icy-crooner best – it’s as if he’s reinterpreting Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger theme, reshaping it to suit his sound and purpose.
So, I start this by suggesting that Lanegan gets a bit of a free ride/can do no wrong – then I come over all gushy, more so than I ever have. I do love the guy’s best stuff – and in a concentrated burst he’s offered us something here that really stands up. It makes me both excited and nervous for what’s about to come next. And that ain’t a bad thing. Shows I care. Sounds like he does at the moment too. Bonus.