Lanegan, Mark : Field Songs

Ex-Screaming Trees man opens his heart

If there’s currently a male singer charting the darker corners of the human heart with more tender clarity than Mark Lanegan, please, show them in. Until then, he is without rival.

Only Nick Cave can breathe life into themes of chemical dependence, hunger and revenge with the same lusty power, but judging by ‘Field Songs’ not even he can challenge Lanegan. This

is the former Trees singer’s fifth solo album, and his best work since the final Trees offering, ‘Dust’, in ’96.

[I]”Like I told you before, veins are alright/If I fall to the floor, it’s for closing my eyes”[/I], sings

Lanegan ruefully on the beautiful shooting den lullaby ‘Kimiko’s Dream House’ (written, incidentally, with the late Gun Club singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce), and thereby hangs the thread of this album. This is soul music. Not necessarily by genre – although ‘Pill Hill Serenade’ could be an Otis Redding lament – but by virtue of the songs that lay their author’s soul bare. By the album’s close, one feels an intimacy with Lanegan few friends enjoy.

It’s pitched somewhere between the last moment of clarity before drifting off on junk-filled dreams and the gnawing desperation between fixes. There are songs of dreamlike grace, like ‘Field Song’, which sounds like Leonard Cohen until it fades out to astonishing whipcrack guitar, songs of windy electricity, like ‘No Easy Action”s twisted psychedelia, and all points between.

‘Field Songs’ may not be the best heartbreak and heroin album ever, but it’s highly ranked. It’s a cruel world that leaves Mark Lanegan so poorly remunerated for his many gifts, but he can draw comfort from knowing that his rasping, spine-tingling honesty rakes a clear path to a higher reward.

Ted Kessler