Black Mountain In The Future

[Jagjaguwar; 2008]

Styles: psych-rock, stoned groove
Others: Sabbath, Floyd, Can

In The Future sounds like that year in high school you might have spent smoking way too much weed and listening to Pink Floyd every day. It’s all really nice and eeeasy, man -- easy on the ears, brain, and dopamine receptors. Stephen McBean and co. trade in the kind of thick, gooey, undercooked-hash-brownie-with-marshmallow pleasures of early ‘70s hard rock, and if it sounds just like your bad uncle’s worn-in copy of Paranoid, that’s the point.

Black Mountain is without a trace of irony, conveying with relative exactitude the manifold pleasures of a musical era that still holds a fairly wide appeal. They know better than to fuck with the formula. But then, you ask, why bother? Where is The New? How will this music hold up over the years? There’s about as sharp a point on those questions as asking how that fresh baggie you just bought from Reggie will hold up over the years, but the point is still well-taken: If these guys are overtly pastiche, why bother listening to them when the source material is available? Well, because McBean is still a good enough songwriter that his melodies shine through the outmoded methodology, and he (mostly) keeps enough tension-and-release tricks up his sleeve to perk you up when you’re nodding out.

The first four tracks here are the real powerhouses. Even if things roll on a slow downhill grade afterward (except for backup singer Amber Webber’s sneaky, doom-laden sleeper “Queens Will Play”), the thunderous riffages of “Stormy High” and “Tyrants” play catch-and-release well with the beer-guzzlin’, Doobie Brothers-soundin’ “Angels.” What’s that the Doobies said about what were once vices are now habits? ...hmm, slipped my mind already. The slippery groove of “Wucan” actually brings the continental psych-funk of Can to mind, much like the band’s original attention-grabbing single “Druganaut,” reprising the one sonic touchstone that really keeps these fellas and ladies out of the Wolfmother dustbin and on websites like this one.

Unfortunately it’s not all goo balls and heavy vibes. “Wild Wind” is a total toss-off, and the 17-minute “Bright Lights” explodes pretty nicely at the four-minute mark and again toward the end, but mostly just reminding you why you don’t break out Animals or Close to the Edge so often these days. But the closer, “Night Walks,” finishes the album on a high note, with Webber’s hazy moans hung over some big, static-organ chords. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before... it’s taking drugs to make music to take drugs to, or something. But it’s still pretty damn fun, and Black Mountain do it with a higher idea-per-song ratio than most of their fellow fetishists.

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