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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Mark Lanegan Band
Bubblegum
Beggar's Banquet

Rating: 6/10 ?


October 1, 2004
If you ever thought it impossible to hear someone's thoughts, or to feel the physical presence of a person's emotions, then you have not heard the outright desperation of Mark Lanegan Band.

On an album that marks Lanegan's first release in three years and sixth without the credit of his most noted contribution to rock - as frontman of the Screaming Trees - the vocalist is psychologically up and down but always competing to hold his head high while an emotional anchor drags it to the ground.

Bubblegum is a desperate attempt to grasp optimism when the insufferable weight of desperation bears down on the soul. Even the title is overly optimistic and has little to do with what is actually contained on the album. The general associations with the idea of Bubblegum (either the chewing candy or musical genre), i.e. the bright pink color, upbeat attitude and enthusiastic/youthful movement, the sweetness of sugar and poppiness are all lost here. One possibility lies in redefining a common term, something that Lanegan would seem to have no problem with.

Even when the band plays tunes such as "Methamphetamine Blues" and "Driving Death Valley Blues," it seems to miss the traditional stylings that are usually associated with the genre. But Mark Lanegan is his own man, and with a smattering of guests (including PJ Harvey, members of Queens of the Stone Age, and Izzy and Duff from Guns 'N' Roses/Velvet Revolver) and a backing band, he creates sounds that are so derived from rock that they are entirely his own, for better or worse. The better side is flowing with a new school blues/rock atmosphere and layered simplicity, while the worse is a passive-aggressive attitude therapy session in compact disc form.

From the voice comes tortured imagery, both in words and performance. I can't get by similar images of Tom Waits and Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) as Lanegan coos a fog-inducing, whiskey and cigarette drawl. His lyrical references don't make matters any brighter, as he inserts phrases such as, "Would you be ashamed if I shake like I'm dying?" and "I get close to this frozen border, so close I can hit it with a stone."

What Bubblegum shows to its listeners is a traveled musical mind that has full grasp of its strengths and abilities. The overall song style often draws out short, subtle riffs in a deliberate manner and lets the percussive tempo and vocals dictate the colorings of additional instrumentation, which is often electronic punctuations and grungy blues guitar phrasing. The tracks that feature guest musicians are entirely spun in a different direction though: PJ Harvey combines her aggressive fuzz edge with Lanegan's low end vocalization for excellent harmonies in "Hit the City", Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri (of Queens of the Stone Age) spin out bass-distorted bluesy stompers while the vocals are challenged to a new dynamic of assertive energy.

It's good to give a piece of your mind every once in a while. Mark Lanegan Band almost lets this mantra take over Bubblegum, and if it weren't for guest appearances that offer new musical elements of style, the album would be predictable and mired in a morose attitude.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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