Lanegan, Mark/Masters Of Reality : London Charing Cross Road Astoria

Rock's most fearless family couldn't have wished for a better recruit...

They move as a family, the better to repel their enemies. Josh Homme has long talked of [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]

as being surrounded by an extensive web of musicians and artists around LA and Palm Desert. A tightly-knit, fiercely loyal brethren who’ll ensure, once inducted, you’ll never be short of allies – or a decent bassist – ever again.

On their winter manoeuvres round Europe, the organisation’s ideals have finally been put into practise. Virtually all of the [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]

line-up are here, playing supporting roles to Chris Goss (leader of Masters Of Reality, producer of ‘Rated R’) and Mark Lanegan (sometime [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]

vocalist). So Homme and reliably manic bassist Nick Oliveri turn up in the latest incarnation of the Masters, a lethal psychedelic rock band that Goss has intermittently helmed since the late ’80s. If it wasn’t for their presence, you can imagine Goss being a little, well, resentful of the [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]’ recent success: after all, he’s been cranking out very similar weighty, purposeful and tuneful music since they were kids gathered round a generator in the desert. If anything, though, Masters Of Reality are more inclined to heavy blues-rock, with ‘John Brown’ a dead ringer for [a]Led Zeppelin[/a]. And there’s the odd cosmically-inclined lyric – though when Lanegan joins them for a searing ‘High Noon Amsterdam’, it’s plain Goss shares the guilt-free partying agenda.

Lanegan, of course, grew out of excess a while back, as the brooding confessions of his most recent solo album, ‘Field Songs’, attest. But his great gift -whether indulging or not – has always been to write about extreme drug use without apology, glorification or, remarkably, self-pity. He remains a more convincingly surly outlaw than those gristly frauds on the alt-country circuit who fancy themselves as such. But the official demise of the [a]Screaming Trees[/a] and his new blood ties with the Queens seem to have reawakened Lanegan ‘s desire to rock; for the first time in years, these rueful and experience-heavy songs have taken on fresh muscle.

So where once he seemed to have settled into a role of reflective balladeer, now he’s content to let his band drive songs like ‘Borracho’ back into turbulent, grungy territory. Given he has perhaps the greatest rock’n’roll voice of his generation, a voice that conveys a terrible understanding of mortality with great calmness and strength, that can only be a good thing. By the end, Lanegan’s still pinned to his mic stand as the raging mantra of the Trees’ ‘Gospel Plow’ burns on around him; and rock’s most fearless family couldn’t have wished for a better recruit.

John Mulvey