Mark Lanegan’s nickname — “Dark Mark” — was no accident. As evidenced by the music and especially the autobiography of the Washington-born singer — who died Tuesday at the age of 57 after long battles with substance abuse, kidney disease and recently Covid-19 — were as darkly uplifting as they were distinctive.
Anchored by his forceful baritone, his best songs depicted scenes of “decadence, depravity, anything, everything,” as he wrote in his 2020 autobiography, “Sing Backwards and Weep.”
Despite his forbidding demeanor, after rising to prominence with the Screaming Trees in the late 1980s, Lanegan worked with a wide array of artists, ranging from Queens of the Stone Age to Belle & Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell to Marianne Faithfull. Here are twelve of Lanegan’s brightest dark musical moments.
Screaming Trees “Night Comes Creeping” (1988)
Three years into their career, the band that allowed Lanegan to escape his hated backwater hometown of Ellensburg, Washington signed with white-hot indie label SST. The group’s second album for the label, “Invisible Lantern,” was capped with this thrashing yet melodic closing track, “Night Comes Creeping.” It blazes by with a chiming, Byrds-y guitar line and Lanegan’s growling croon high in the mix.
Mark Lanegan – “Down in the Dark” (1990)
This dour, galloping track from Lanegan’s first solo album is one of two from that set to feature his friend Kurt Cobain on backing vocals. The other was a cover of the traditional blues song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” — which Nirvana made world-famous by performing (with Cobain on lead vocals) on their inspired Nirvana’s 1993 “MTV Unplugged” set.
Screaming Trees “Nearly Lost You” (1992)
Powered by placement in the 1992 “Singles” film, director-writer Cameron Crowe’s love letter to the Seattle scene, this song turned Dark Mark’s charging track into an unlikely hit single.
Mad Season “Slip Away” (1995)
You have to find the deluxe version of the only album from this one-off grunge supergroup (featuring Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and the Trees’ Barrett Martin) to hear Lanegan’s low-slung, jangling, wrangling metal vibe-out. Excellent marimba work, too.
Queens of the Stone Age “In the Fade” (2000)
While always officially a “guest vocalist” in Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan sound and temperament fit in well with Josh Homme’s desert metal ensemble — and their slow, stewing “In the Fade” is a jarring highlight of the group’s sophomore album, “Rated R.”
Queens of the Stone Age “Song for the Dead” (2002)
“No One Knows” would be the obvious go-to cut from the band’s “Songs for the Deaf” album — all of which features Dave Grohl on drums — but this slimy, slow-starting, rage-building epic is exquisitely thrashy.
Mark Lanegan “Hit the City” (2004)
Taken from his “Bubblegum” album, Lanegan took his jump from Sub Pop to 4AD seriously with a grim but glam-poppy, skin-crawling track recorded with a yelping yet soulful PJ Harvey.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan “Revolver” (2006)
Brushed-snare prairie jazz-blues sung and played by Lanegan and light-toned Scottish cellist and Belle & Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell. Gorgeous.
The Gutter Twins – “Bête Noire” (2008)
With Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli as his partner in Fender Rhodes soul-grunge, this long-gestating album project, “Saturnalia,” is actually an ideal mix of both men’s talents — and this lone all-Lanegan song is a slippery, funky peak.
Mark Lanegan Band “The Gravedigger’s Song” (2012)
That edgy glam-pop sound turned into an industrial wall of sound on Lanegan’s aptly-titled “Blues Funeral” album — and, in particular, his “Gravedigger’s” paean.
Marianne Faithfull – “They Come at Night” (2018)
A spare, clicking guitar signaling the blues, and questions such as “What is this horror, mama, flooding over me?” signaling the mean reds couldn’t come from any better team than Lanegan and Faithfull.
Mark Lanegan – “I Wouldn’t Want to Say” (2020)
With a battery of synths, sequencers, cut-and-splice noises and drum machines behind him, Lanegan lets his baritone free in ways first imagined by Scott Walker on “Tilt.”
Mark Lanegan – “Skeleton Key” (2020)
Warbling lines such as “I’m ugly inside and out/ There’s no denying,” atop an atmospherically musky and pensive waltz is quintessential late-period Lanegan.