Albums: Mark Lanegan

Field Songs, Sub Pop
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The Independent Culture

"Have you ever been skeleton low?" asks Mark Lanegan on this, his fifth solo album, and one which leaves you in little doubt that he himself certainly has. Fifteen years fronting Seattle grunge crew Screaming Trees left Lanegan with a struggle against booze and drug addiction ­ and, more happily, one of the most enviable voices in modern rock music, a warm, husky baritone marinated in whiskey and toasted to temporary perfection by three packs of unfiltered a day. Blending the weary resignation of Mark Eitzel with the honeyed languor of Tim Buckley, it enabled him to contribute the standout track ("Café") to last year's Buckley tribute Sing a Song for You, and now lends a resonant authenticity to these Field Songs. Lanegan's solo style hovers around the confessional end of rootsy alt.rock, shading over into something akin to the third Velvet Underground album on "Kimiko's Dream House". But whether he's bringing a menacing maturity to the low-key Tex-Mex flavour of "Don't Forget Me", surfing the swirling mellotron strings of "No Easy Action", or inscribing his testimony over the patina of eerie creakings and scrapings in "One Way Street", there's always a sense that he's trying desperately to shake off the hellhound on his trail ­ that although "The stars and the moon are where they're supposed to be", Lanegan's still mesmerised, trapped by "a psychotropic light", be it love or addiction. Highly recommended.