Book reviews, Non fiction

Sing Backwards And Weep by Mark Lanegan – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Kurt Cobain’s best friend and former Queens of the Stone Age member unveils the gritty underbelly of the Seattle music scene in the most honest and unflinching grunge memoir to date

When the rock maverick and grunge pioneer Mark Lanegan first arrived in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he was just another nihilistic waster seeking catharsis from rock ‘n’ roll. Yet little did he know that less than a decade later he would rise to fame as the apocalyptic frontman of one of the most trailblazing grunge bands of all time and soon fall from grace as a low-level crack dealer and a homeless heroin addict while watching some of his closest friends rocket to the forefront of popular music. Nearly three decades later, Lanegan is ready to revisit his gritty past in a gripping memoir Sing Backwards and Weep published in April 2020 by Orion’s new music imprint White Rabbit.

A sinister chronicle of the most tumultuous times of his life, from the formative years of his neoteric rock band Screaming Trees to his brutally honest accounts on the hardships of his life, Lanegan’s memoir is an unembellished tale of one of the most romanticised decades in rock history. From addiction to touring, petty crime, homelessness and the tragic deaths of his closest friends including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley, Lanegan masterfully interweaves these stories into a coarse fabric of his life that is bursting with creativity yet dripping with drugs. With a voice that’s as “scratchy as a three-day beard yet as supple and pliable as moccasin leather” as once described by Pitchfork, Lanegan’s hoarse penmanship is much like his musicianship with its desolate yet highly nuanced and poetic narrative. From the back of the van to the front of the bar, from hotel room to emergency room, onstage, backstage and everywhere in between, Lanegan’s words flow eloquently from once city to another, from one year to another and one tragedy to another.

Between the chaotic years of touring and addiction, music remains the paradoxical anchor of hope glimmering on the bottom of the barrel, offering solace yet simultaneously pulling Lanegan further into the darkness. Sing Backwards and Weep tracks his artistic journey through a series of stories about his fellow musicians like Cobain whose impact on Lanegan’s music remains infinite. Their artistic camaraderie plays a central part in Lanegan’s life story, all the way from their first meeting to long phone calls on music and girls, jam sessions filled with brotherly love and eventually the bitter end with Lanegan being the last person Cobain spoke to before his death. Lanegan’s memoir offers a unique chance to be immersed in the sonic wonderland of influences behind his hauntingly raw signature sound by revisiting his first encounters with cult musicians and friends like Nick Drake and Nick Cave as well as dipping into his personal playlists of the time that included the likes of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.

Sing Backwards and Weep tracks the volatile rise and fall of Screaming Trees in an unsparing manner while diving deep into Lanegan’s personal struggles. Unflinchingly raw and powerful to the bone, Sing Backwards and Weep is not your usual celebrity memoir with a pseudo-inspirational tag line, it goes beyond that by telling a story of a man watching his dreams catch fire yet finding a way to drag himself out of the wreckage as one of the most extraordinary musicians of our time.

Mark Lanegan on Sing Backwards and Weep: ”I am excited, honoured, and quite humbled that Lee has chosen my story to be the first White Rabbit release.”

White Rabbit founder Lee Brackstone: “Two days before I started at White Rabbit, this manuscript arrived, and I acquired it a few days later. It is a monumental book. I can’t compare it to any other memoir that has emerged from the music world. It’s a story of trauma, suffering, dysfunction, survival – and making great art out of all of that. It is staggeringly brave, honest and terrifying. I’ve no doubt it will become the classic account of the Seattle scene and its aftershocks into the 90s. It’s an heroic act to have committed these stories to the page and it shows Lanegan’s great courage and integrity that he has gone back and revisited these experiences. It’s a book full of horror and degradation, the pain of addiction and the depravity it encourages. I think it will be a helpful book for many people because it shows an artist laid bare, all the vulnerabilities and failings. It makes 90% of other music memoirs look like fakes and I learned from publishing Viv Albertine, that readers respond to the bare truth more than anything else.”

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MY REVIEW 

Sing Backwards And Weep is Mark Lanegan’s autobiography and it’s brutally honest and so fascinating.

It tells of his journey to success as a member of The Screaming Trees, in the 80’s and 90’s, and his fall into drug addiction. This is not a pity party, just a dark, honest and at times humourless tale of an extraordinary life.

I found this to be a fascinating, entertaining and compelling read, a look into the darker side of a life in the music industry.

Thank you to Bei at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour and for a free ecopy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

ABOUT MARK LANEGAN

Mark Lanegan (b. 1964) is an American alternative rock musician and singer-songwriter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of our time. He is the founding member of influential psychedelic grunge band Screaming Trees and was a full-time member of Queens of The Stone Age between 2000-2014 when he also penned the theme song for Anthony Bourdain’s award-winning TV show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown with QOTSA front man Josh Homme. He has collaborated with a long list of industry heavy weights over the years, including Massive Attack, Moby, Warpaint, UNKLE, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Eagles of Death Metal amongst others. Lanegan lives in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT WHITE RABBIT

White Rabbit is a new imprint published by former Faber Social impresario Lee Brackstone launching in April 2020. In its inaugural year of 2020, White Rabbit will publish twelve titles by music industry legends like Carl Cox, Richard Russell, Mark Lanegan, Annie Nightingale, Chris Frantz and Jehnny Beth of Savages amongst others. Dedicated to publishing the most innovative books and voices in music and literature, Brackstone aims to build on the uniquely successful publishing he was responsible for at Faber Social with authors like The Beastie Boys, Viv Albertine and Jon Save. Brackstone’s titles for his Orion imprint indicate the range and personality of a list that will indicate the range and personality of a list that will encompass memoir, history, fiction, translation, illustrated books and high-spec limited editions.

 

ABOUT THE ORION PUBLISHING GROUP

 

Where every story matter.

 

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