Mark Lanegan - I Am The Wolf

by Nathan Fidler Rating: Release Date:

Mark Lanegan is well known by now for the low timbre of his vocal stylings; he’s been at it since the mid-eighties, so there is a great deal about the man to explore. I Am The Wolf sees Lanegan laying out his lyrics as if they were poems, and giving a brief insight into just some of the phases and places he’s been in.

The fact that it’s his gravelly voice you first think of is no coincidence, but he’s also haunted the darker corners of the music world for a long time. So what of his lyrics? Mostly focusing on his solo career, it’s a decent look at everything from The Winding Sheet, through to his most recent effort this year, Gargoyle.

You can pick out the dark, sombre feelings throughout every album, and while his introductions seem to suggest a changing mood over time, it’s hard to see without more context. This isn’t an autobiography, but it’s also not a straight book of poems - people tend to confuse lyrics with poetry a lot, and while there is an overlap, they are definitely not the same.

What you’re dying to hear about is how he’s messed up his relationships, where he’s failed, and where he has fraught creative differences with the people he’s collaborated with over the years. If you come seeking this information, you’ll be disappointed; Lanegan is coy and skirts around the barest mentions of such things.

What of his time with, most famously, Queens Of The Stone Age? Is Josh Homme not quite a big player in this man’s career upheaval? And how about those delightful duets he did with Isobel Campbell, why did they end and does he still speak to her? The musical stories and anecdotes from across the decades are sorely lacking.

It might seem like a lust for gossip, but this was Lanegan’s chance to tell his story. You get no real sense of what builds him and breaks him as a human being, so the songs you see laid out here don’t hold as great a sense of the man as you might hope.

For the die-hard fan and the avid listener, tracing fingers over liner notes to hear what’s actually said in a song, this is an easy reference guide. It’s fun to pour over the songs and finally know what a particular line was that you’ve always misheard. Indeed, Lanegan ploughs a gloomy furrow across his career, and probably just wanted to share this, but the songs can be very similar without additional input and anecdotal evidence.

Not everything from his career is touched upon either, leaving some gaps in the puzzle, but there is a decent amount of stuff in the “one-offs and collaborations” section to keep you satisfied. What you also get an appreciation for, is the influences of Lanegan, particularly his more recent use of disco and German music.

Lanegan’s story is possibly one we won’t truly learn the depths of until he’s long gone from this Earth (a theme which, unsurprisingly, appears a great deal in his lyrics), but as the title suggests, he’s a wolf, a loner and he’s certainly not going to share his secrets with the likes of you.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Kevin Orton

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Thoughtful review. Lanegan has always reveled in being a bit of an enigma. Its a rare talent in this age of celebrity worship. That voice of his is unmistakable and he never lays it on too thick. Lyrically, I've always admired his subtlety. Nice to have most of the lyrics in one place.