Wednesday, April 30, 2008

albums from 2008 that I love: Black Mountain

Ahhhhhhhhh. This record is like jumping into a big comfy time machine. It feels very nostalgic to me, but nostalgic for a time that was more than a decade before my own birth. I grew up on real nerdy, guitar-dork classic rock like Zeppelin and Floyd and Sabbath, stuff that is decidedly uncool as checkpoints for new indie rock. Sometimes this sound comes back in, and in recent memory bands like Wolfmother, Mars Volta, Muse, have mined the riffs and pomp of the Gods of dinosaur rock, to pretty uncool results. I normally try not to revisit this era of my musical taste, it being second only to my extensive foray into jam band fandom on the embarrassment scale. Black Mountain totally love Blue Cheer and Deep Purple (I'm guessing) and kind of sound like "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." But this is really good! And everyone loves it. Strange how they managed to keep some of the lame stuff from 70s stadium/prog/psych rock and still keep it a cool indie rock album form 2008 - a pretty hard thing to do no matter what type of influences you're using. I mean, their web site is called!!!

I think what keeps the album fresh and easy to embrace is that the band doesn't simply rely on the Sabbath riffs for 80 minutes straight. There are plenty, but they're balanced out by beautifully restrained organs or passages of soft acoustic guitars and flutes or something like that. There's an equal emphasis on psychedelia as there is on brute force riffage. Songs like "Tyrants" switch from stompy prog to atmospheric psych at the drop of a hat, which helps to keep the band from sounding too stuck in one mode or the other. Even when they are getting pretty or trippy the Rick Wakeman synths and monster guitars aren't too far behind. A perfect example is "Wucan," maybe my favorite track. The shared vocals really save some of the songs from their stupid lyrics. "You've got to change your evil ways"!?!? Amber Webber's voice is incredible and so is the dude's. This album is totally badass in ways that albums really haven't been in a while; unabashedly rocking out in some parts but keeping it psychedelic and kind of druggy at the same time, not caring about "hip" influences, silly lyrics, alternating scary/beautiful parts, long epic tracks. It seems kind of anachronistic, but there is a weird thing going on in Vancouver with a bunch of dudes with beards who are in awesome rock bands. Big synths, kraut-ish grooves, Sabbath riffs aren't exactly ground-breaking, but I can't think of many indie rock records that are as unpretentious and listenable.


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