Mark Lanegan became one of the most influential voices in 1990s rock not because he was the loudest, meanest, or gnarliest vocalist of all the Seattle bands. He certainly could be at times, but what made Lanegan different was his willingness to pull from vastly different sources to craft his signature sound, including records from the genres of folk, blues, and roots rock.
While sitting down with writer Julian Marszalek for Quietus back in January of 2012, Lanegan rattled off 13 classic albums that he considers his favourites of all time. As was always the case with Lanegan’s four decades of music, his responses were off-kilter and occasionally eyebrow-raising, but impassioned and heartfelt at the same time.
There are some artists who make quite a bit of sense for someone like Lanegan: legendary punk rockers The Flesh Eaters, post-punk pioneers The Gun Club, and experimental music pioneer John Cale all have direct lines back to the scuzzy rock of Screaming Trees and the more detached rumblings of his solo career. These are the essential building blocks to understanding an artist like Lanegan.
But then, as he was often prone to doing, Lanegan takes a left turn into more eclectic territory. That includes giving shout outs to British art rockers Roxy Music and their 1974 magnum opus Country Life. Lanegan credits Screaming Trees guitarist Gary Lee Conner for showing him Country Life and cites his repeated listens of ‘The Thrill of It All’ as being a particularly unexpected favourite pastime for the infamously growly vocalist.
But that wasn’t the only surprise in the batch. Lanegan gives shout outs to both post-punk propagators Joy Division and the band’s subsequent offshoot New Order. Lanegan describes Closer as relating to his younger days soundtracking his grunt work day jobs, while Low Life‘s ‘Subculture’ was his then-current ringtone for Lanegan’s cell phone. Lanegan even shares that parts of ‘Subculture’ found their way onto Screaming Trees’ debut album Clairvoyance.
The award for most unexpected connection, however, has to be Lanegan’s love for the Bee Gees and their 1971 album Trafalgar. This was pre-disco Bee Gees, where Robin Gibb was the designated lead singer and heavily orchestrated soft rock was the key to their sound. Lanegan even claims that the Bee Gees are to him “what The Beatles are to other people.” Praise doesn’t get higher than that, but the image of Lanegan softly rocking to ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’ is certainly one of the stranger ones your mind can conjure up.
When Lanegan stated his appreciation for New Order, it wasn’t the only synthesiser-heavy group that he gave major props to. Lanegan also pointed to German Krautrock icons Kraftwerk and their 1975 album Radio-Activity as having a major impact on him. Lanegan states that his early love of bands like Kraftwerk and New Order convinced him it was ok to listen to artists outside of his adopted genres of rock and punk. “It takes me to another place and I can’t really explain why I love that record,” Lanegan says. “It’s a record from a different world – that’s the way it sounds to me.”
Of course, there’s always room for more traditionally aggressive music, like the works of Swedish industrial goth pioneers The Leather Nun. Lanegan cites Force of Habit, the band’s first US-released compilation, as a favourite, but unsurprisingly it’s for a reason other than the dark melodies and pounding rhythms. “Their cover of Abba’s ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ is fantastic!” he enthuses, and openly admits to pilfering the song ‘Prime Mover’ for his own material over the years.
Also on the more aggressive side are Australian garage punks The New Christs. Lanegan relates to a time in the late ’90s when he lived in a house that “didn’t have a TV; we just had a stereo.” Through his connection with Sub Pop, Lanegan got his hands on Distemper, and connected with the songs that were “catchy in a really weird way.” Lanegan also cited singer Rob Younger as being a hook that brought him in.
Lanegan also has plenty to say about folk music, citing the works of Italian singer Fabrizio de Andre and English guitarist John Renbourne as being favourites in his record collection. When Lanegan met Renbourne on the set of Later… with Jools Holland, Lanegan “told him that Faro Annie was one of my all-time favourite albums and he said, ‘Well, what are you doing looking in the oldies bin?’ [Laughs uproariously]. That was totally cool!”
Finally, Lanegan took time to acknowledge the influence that Australian no-wavers Crime & the City Solution had on him. Shine came at a time when The City Solution consisted of former Birthday Party guitarist Mick Harvey on drums as well as German musicians Chrislo Haas and Alexander Hacke. Lanegan also uses this album to relate to his own evolution towards appreciating the role that music has played in his life, ending with the statement: “To be able to sit here and talk about my favourite records – if I think about that – as part of what I do for a living, well, what could be better?”
Check out the full list of Mark Lanegan’s favourite albums down below.
Mark Lanegan’s 13 favourite albums:
- The Gun Club – Miami
- Joy Division – Closer
- Roxy Music – Country Life
- Bee Gees – Trafalgar
- The Flesh Eaters – A Moment To Pray, A Second To Die
- Fabrizio de Andre – Canzoni
- Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity
- John Renbourn – Faro Annie
- The Leather Nun – Force Of Habit
- John Cale – Paris 1919
- Crime & The City Solution – Shine
- The New Christs – Distemper
- New Order – Low Life