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HomeMusicCandy Oblivion and Whiskey for the Holy Ghost — Remembering Mark Lanegan

Candy Oblivion and Whiskey for the Holy Ghost — Remembering Mark Lanegan


A lot has been written in regards to the initially efflorescent and finally overblown Seattle scene of the early ’90s that it appears like a weary story at this level. There have been muscular bands like Soundgarden and Tad, shyly pop-influenced bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and darkly unsettling bands like Alice in Chains and Melvins, however even with these bands’ guitar-smashing theatrics and hair-curtain glower, no band felt as actually harmful as Screaming Bushes. A part of the hazard got here from the juggernaut performances by large brothers Van and Gary Lee Conner who somersaulted and flailed onstage, throwing their violent vitality on the songs and at one another (raging in a means that solely siblings can), however the actual hang-out got here from vocalist Mark Lanegan.

As is detailed in his memoir Sing Backwards and Weep, Lanegan grew up in a gruelingly dysfunctional dwelling and shortly fell into liquor and medicines as a technique of escape. He and the Conner boys shaped Screaming Bushes after pulling Lanegan from behind the drum equipment and pushing him reasonably reluctantly to the entrance of the stage. Even of their earliest recordings comparable to 1986’s Clairvoyance and Even If and Particularly When, Lanegan’s whiskey-and-cigarettes voice was uncooked and forceful, however belied a way of haunted magnificence. A lot of Screaming Bushes’ music was influenced by the psychedelic underground music of the sixties, in direct opposition to their eventual compatriots’ embrace of Sabbath/Stooges stomp and wail. Someway this mix of swirling guitar results and darkish carnival atmospherics mixed a brooding menace with a way of sincere readability inside the darkness.

Because the Seattle sound was “found,” Screaming Bushes had been a revered working band releasing albums on Velvetone and SST for half a decade. The uncooked sound of their early albums was slowly polished till their second album on Epic, the underrated masterwork Candy Oblivion, introduced them nationwide consideration (due in no small half to their track “Almost Misplaced You” being one of many many highlights on the Singles soundtrack). Their muscular and earnest songwriting got here to a peak with songs just like the album’s opener “Shadow of the Season,” the “When the Levee Breaks” dirge of “Extra or Much less” and the psych-tinged “Butterfly.” A quiet diversion from the buzzing guitars was the acoustic-based “Greenback Invoice,” a heartbroken, bar-at-closing-time hymn that builds slowly, urged on by Lanegan’s plaintive howl.

After the following (and violent) yearlong tour to help the file, the band selected to go on an extended hiatus which led to Lanegan specializing in his solo work and recording the second of many actually glorious information on his personal. The quiet introspection of Lanegan’s solo debut and “Greenback Invoice” bled over strongly into these recordings, focusing much less on partitions of guitars and providing extra introspective and refined orchestration to help his craving story-songs. AllMusic’s Mark Deming nailed it when he identified:

“Whereas The Winding Sheet typically sounded impressed however tentative, just like the solo challenge from a member of a longtime band, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost speaks with a quiet however steely confidence of an artist rising together with his personal distinct imaginative and prescient. The songs are extra literate and higher realized than on the debut, the preparations are refined and supportive (typically eschewing electrical guitars for keyboards and acoustic devices), and Lanegan’s voice, bathed in bourbon and nicotine, transforms the deep sorrow of the nation blues (a transparent inspiration for this music) into one thing new, compelling, and completely his personal.”

Screaming Bushes reunited for yet one more album however Lanegan spent nearly all of his energies persevering with to file solo albums and dealing with Josh Homme as a frequent collaborator on Queens of the Stone Age albums, pairing with Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, and recording an unexpectedly charming sequence of duets with Belle and Sebastian‘s Isobel Campbell.

All through his profession, Lanegan fought the demons of dependancy, at one level attempting to remedy his alcoholism by utilizing heroin and acquiring an an infection in his arm that just about required amputation. His memoir particulars actually harrowing tales of attempting to attain in again alleys whereas on European excursions, and state of affairs after state of affairs the place it was a miracle he made it out alive. He established true friendships with Kurt Cobain (who known as Lanegan repeatedly on the day of his suicide), Gap bassist Kristen Pfaff (who overdosed two months after Cobain died), and Layne Staley from Alice in Chains (whom Lanegan toured with and recorded with on the darkly lovely Mad Season album), all of whom died too quickly. Lanegan lastly acquired sober inside the final decade of his life, and his readability led to a rise in output, each in his music and in his writing.

Someway surviving 57 years, Mark Lanegan died in early 2022. Trying again on his many years of output, he left behind a moody and gothic physique of labor, from psych-revival by way of heavy melodic rock and eventually as a gruff troubadour whose songs hang-out the corners of barrooms and dim hollars with solely the occasional ray of daylight breaking by way of the darkish.

AllMusic spoke with Mark Lanegan in 2020. The interview may be discovered right here.

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