Mark Lanegan Band Bubblegum

For any fan of Mark Lanegan, a new album is always an occasion to celebrate, not only for its new collection of songs, but for the simple fact that he was able to make it. Lanegan always seemed destined to join the sad roll call of Seattle grunge-era casualties, even during his time fronting the Screaming Trees. But since establishing a solo career, his devotion to his art has served well to exorcise his demons, and in doing so, made him one of the few true survivors of the Seattle scene. While previous gloomy efforts, Field Songs and Scraps At Midnight, didn’t attract sufficient attention, Bubblegum comes on the heels of Lanegan’s participation in Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, and assumptions were a rekindling of his hard rock roots. There certainly is some of that in "Hit The City,” (a duet with PJ Harvey) "Sideways In Reverse,” (featuring ex-Doughboy John Kastner on guitar) and the very Queens-y "Driving Death Valley Blues.” But as with most of Lanegan’s solo work, the best songs are the more subdued. Always immersed in classic blues and country, Lanegan’s husky baritone really shines on "Wedding Dress,” "Come To Me,” and "Like Little Willie John,” a song that serves as a perfect summation of the album’s themes of twisted postmodern Americana, and arguably the best song Lanegan has yet written. What doesn’t work as well are the more sonically experimental tracks "Methamphetamine Blues,” and "Can’t Come Down,” which echo the recent Here Comes That Weird Chill EP. While it’s admirable that he attempts to stretch his boundaries, Lanegan is still at heart the heir to Jim Morrison’s drunken Irish-American poetics. That may not seem flattering to some, but in the current state of rock, there are few artists who have come as far as Mark Lanegan, and who are continually pushing their mode of expression to higher levels. (Beggars Banquet)