Though I came to the game late, I’ve been a loyal fan of grunge music almost all my life. Unfortunately though, by the time I got old enough to go to, and enjoy, concerts, most of my favorite bands were long gone. For whatever reason, that style of music always spoke to me in a way that no other genre has been able to. But seeing as I’m 26 now, I missed the heyday of it all and have to accept that all the music, all those albums are from the past. It is a sobering thought when I realize that Nirvana’s Nevermind came out 20 years ago. Kurt Cobain kissed a shotgun when I was only 9 years old, and most other bands had dissolved (Stone Temple Pilots, Screaming Trees, and Soundgarden) by the time I was old enough to really respect their music. Hell, even though Layne Staley was alive up until my junior year of high school, Alice in Chains had been inactive for around 8 years prior to that. Grunge was dead, and I was enjoying it through the lens of history. I always regretted not being cognizant during those times and able to experience that music when it was new.
And though grunge has been replaced in history just like glam rock and disco before it, we still see glimpses peek out every once in a while. I was lucky enough to spend my 21st birthday in Cincinnati, Ohio seeing Pearl Jam live, which was absolutely the best concert of my life. Eddie Vedder chugged red wine from the bottle the entire four hour concert, which included some throwbacks to Temple of the Dog and other great stuff, including a 10 minute version of Alive. It was my most well-earned hangover ever, and we totally got to see one of our favorite bands of all time. I guess all this is to say that I really do love this style of music and it means a lot to me. And we all have that special strand of music that we are passionate about. But there is one album in particular that stands out from the rest, and I’ve consistently claimed it as my favorite of all time. Mark Lanegan, the former frontman for the Screaming Trees, did a solo album way back in 1990 called The Winding Sheet. It was a lot of pure grunge songs that really agreed with my teenage angst at the time, with dark brooding lyrics that I just loved. It was made especially awesome by the fact that Kurt Cobain sang with him for a few tracks. It really is a great album, and one that made me really appreciate Mark Lanegan as an artist. He’s never really become super famous, but his music is solid grunge and so I always try to keep track of anything new coming from him. That’s why when I heard 6 months ago that he had a new album to be released on February 6th, I could hardly wait. I downloaded it as soon as it became available, and I’m here to say that it is incredible.
Now, I don’t really know how to write a music review. It always seems like wine tasting, a bunch of fancy words that mean nothing. I could tell you that track 3 is nutty with a hint of fruit, that ends with a tart tone that really brings out the wood flavor, but I’d be sounding like an asshole. Because honestly, music review sites like Pitchfork are only good for giving hipsters “ironic” boners. Regardless, this newest album by Lanegan is pure grunge goodness. It is exactly what I expected when I downloaded it, and yet it is 100% surprising at the same time. All the review sites out there have been citing “The Gravedigger’s Song” as the album’s highlight, but I think “Phantasmagoria Blues” really is the standout single from the album. You can tell that the lyrics throughout the album hint at his battles with heroin addiction, and the songs are honest and reflective while retaining that distinctive aggression that keeps things interesting. If this genre of music has ever interested you in the past, or if you are feeling nostalgic while still wanting something new, I’d definitely recommend this album. And though it isn’t something I’d play at a party, it is probably going to end up being my “soundtrack” as I drive for the next year or so. Because I know Winding Sheet filled that role for years prior. Plus, Lanegan is pretty much a badass.