With the Screaming Trees an increasingly distant memory and his brief tenure with Queens of the Stone Age seemingly over and done, Mark Lanegan appears to have well and truly become a solo artist, and while the dark and blues-shot introspections of Whiskey for the Holy Ghost and The Winding Sheet felt like a respite from Lanegan's usual musical diet of the time, Bubblegum sounds like an effort to fuse the nocturnal atmospherics of his solo work with the impressive brain/brawn ratio of his better-known bands. Credited to the Mark Lanegan Band (though there's no consistent set of musicians from track to track), Bubblegum is hardly short on the moody stuff, with Lanegan's nicotine-buffered pipes leading these songs though any number of empty streets and unhappy events, as on the jonesed-out road trip of "Strange Religion," the pained drift of "One Hundred Days," and the wasted longing of "Morning Glory Wine" -- notice a common theme yet? (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the album's title refers not to teen-centric pop music, but a line from his song "Bombed": "When I'm bombed, I stretch like bubblegum/And look too long straight at the morning sun.") But Lanegan was also of a mind to rock out a bit while making this album (or figured that his newer fans were expecting it of him), and with his QOTSA pals Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri helping out on a few cuts, he does indeed deliver the rock, most notably the clanking menace of "Methamphetamine Blues," the straightforward bash of "Sideways in Reverse," and the organ-driven ooze of "Hit the City" (the latter featuring Polly Jean Harvey in an inspired duet appearance). But while most guys making a solo album after a stint with a successful band create music that speaks of freedom and release, Bubblegum finds Lanegan digging ever deeper into the obsessions and appetites that drag him into the same corner every time. It sure doesn't sound like a life most of us would wish to lead, but it makes for damned compelling art, and the dank emotional caverns of Bubblegum offer some territory well worth exploring for the strong-willed.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming