I came late to the party when it comes to Mark Lanegan and his career.
It was him opening for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 2013 and I was instantly overcome with the feeling that I have missed out on an intriguing man and his works.
Delving into his oeuvre and myriad of collaborations, among which the ones fronting Queens of the Stone Age and the Screaming Trees form just the tip of the iceberg, the quest was rewarded with a diverse catalogue of music and lyrics that many see in the tradition of greats like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave, yet are driven by a unique and authentic voice – both literally and metaphorically.
I Am the Wolf follows Lanegan’s career chronologically, documenting the genesis of his individual albums and the evolution of an artist that defied the odds and came out at the other end.
This book is comprised of a collection of the lyrics (largely dealing with sadness and pain, feelings of hopelessness, implications of addiction, rejection and the repercussions of relationships gone awry) to his solo album works plus an extensive selection of collaborations, some of which have never seen the limelight of mainstream exposure, and b-sides, plus a selection of anecdotes regarding the timeframe and headspace of each milestone with especially the latter part being something that most artists make an effort to keep hidden from the public in order to allow for interpretation and not stain the screen upon which each recipient can project and infuse songs with meaning that are relevant to them. To some extent it is good that Lanegan does not unveil his inner workings to the point that it would bear the risk to not be congruent with how the fans have interpreted his emissions.
In other words, he does neither dance it out nor give granular explanations for any particular songs.
While this approach does not deprive the recipients of what they have grown to love about his lyrical emissions, it goes to the expense of surprising elements and major epiphanies.
Well, one cannot have it both ways.
Without sacrificing privacy, it still offers insights into different periods of Lanegan’s life and events, which are inextricably linked to his songs.
I Am the Wolf paints picture of a man who has been through a lot. A man at times stricken with grief and pain but with a cutting sense of humour. It's an enlightening read, especially for those who are motivated to dig deeper than what Lanegan’s lyrics offer at face value.
8.0 / 10
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