Review of No Bells On Sunday EP by Mark Lanegan Band

Mark Lanegan's extensive career has seen him front the grunge icons Screaming Trees, work alongside such artists as Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, whilst steadily adding to his already impressive body of solo work. This exposure to and involvement in various corners of the musical world is evident on Lanegan's latest EP 'No Bells On Sunday' as elements of electronica and instrumental experimentation, which haven't been as prominent on previous releases, are pushed to the foreground.

Mark Lanegan Band No Bells On Sunday EP

Opening track 'Dry Iced' layers a stuttering sequencer on top of wavering drones before Lanegan's instantly recognisable vocals enter the mix. Hypnotic lyrics such as 'dreaming, ceaselessly dreaming, and not asleep' lie on top of the repetitive melody and 4/4 drumbeat, Lanegan's organic drawl merging effortlessly with the synthesised instrumentation. The title track, 'No Bells On Sunday', goes on in a similar fashion as an ambient chord progression pulses religiously throughout, bringing to mind the down-tempo electronica of Lemon Jelly or Massive Attack.

As the EP begins to feel as if it is in danger of being dominated by overproduced, melancholic electronica, third track 'Sad Lover' instils some much needed energy into the mix. An insistent two chord bassline, much like the fuzzy space rock of Moon Duo, sets a psychedelic backdrop for Lanegan's vocal and is a welcome return to a traditional Lanegan sound. Throughout the EP, Lanegan speaks of darkness and dreams in his usual understated style, yet the banjo led fourth track 'Jonas Pap' offers two minutes of particularly uninspiring lyrics and disposable instrumentation; both of which are highly uncharacteristic of Mark Lanegan.

The final track, 'Smokestick Magic', is an eight minute ethereal piece in which moans of 'I heard the voice of Jesus Christ' combine with industrial synth loops and expansive background chords, closing the EP the way it began; in a haunting and experimental fashion.      

Although aspects of certain tracks cause the EP to lack an overall unity, 'No Bells On Sunday' sees Mark Lanegan incorporate new styles of instrumentation whilst retaining his immediately recognisable brooding vocal style. His upcoming album 'Phantom Radio' is looking like an exciting and highly intriguing prospect.


James Hopkin

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