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  • Writer's pictureFred

An Unconventional Review: Sing Backwards and Weep

While battling the local version of the cold virus, my dear Mother brought me over a copy of Mark Lanegan's book Sing Backwards and Weep.

Last month, Lanegan died of complications from Covid. I was only vaguely familiar with Lanegan through his work with the Screaming Trees.

If you like music, Sing Backwards and Weep is a must read. (Well, at least the first half.) What makes Lanegan's missive about the Screaming Trees so unique? His hatred of his own band.

If it wasn't for the Singles Soundtrack, the world may have never heard of the Screaming Trees. The Double Platinum effort was the background music for Gen X'ers in the summer of '92.

Was the Singles Movie any good? No it sucked.

Was the Singles Soundtrack any good? It was a bit too mellow for my taste, but it had the Screaming Tree's highest topping single on it "Nearly Lost You."

Which returns us to the book. Mark Lanegan was a juvenile delinquent who turned into an adult delinquent. Lanegan used the the Connor Brothers as his ticket out of Ellensburg, Washington and was fairly unapologetic about that process. Lanegan was particularly scathing in his appraisal of his band mate Gary Lee Connor. There were more instances of the Screaming Trees nearly blowing apart than pulling together.

But what separates Lanegan's book from other Rock Biographies is his dark and self-depreciating humor. He talks of his admiration of other talented bands and how the Screaming Trees were mostly hacks. As I read it, I understood how nearly everyone in Seattle (at one point) liked Mark Lanegan, he was a charismatic guy.

The second part of the book devolved into insane junkie stories that kind of reminded me of Al Jourgensen's book, Ministry: The Lost Gospels. As a matter of fact, fellow junkie Jourgensen made a cameo appearance in the book.

Lanegan sells himself short though, because as I reviewed the Trees' discography, it wasn't their music that was special, it wasn't their lyrics that were special, it was Lanegan's Voice as an instrument that set them apart.

There's a lot great stories that tied Lanegan into Seattle's first wave of grunge, I devoured the 300+ pages in just a few days. The book ended right before the Screaming Trees broke up at the turn of the millennium. I speculate that Lanegan was setting up for a second book that would have focused on his time in Queens of the Stone Age and his Solo Career.

But I don't think that book is coming. Months before his death due to Covid, Lanegan wrote "Devil in a Coma" detailing the battle that he eventually lost.

Excerpt here

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