By no means does one have to indulge in psychotropic chemicals to enjoy the trippy grooves of psychedelic rock 'n' roll, but c'mon. Could one really exist without the other? Whether or not you've ever had the misfortune of sweating out a bad trip, surely the concept is universal enough by now that most understand the horrific allure of mixing hallucinogenics with harsh vibes. While acid casualty and psych pioneers Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett took psychedelia to some dark places, and while time hasn't attenuated the mystique of their music, their mental issues override chemical intake as far as musical influence go.
With a name like The Black Angels, these Austin-based psych fetishists clearly decided early on which side of the moon they'd call home. Hence, they immediately omitted incense, peppermint, sage, thyme and other sweet-smelling legal herbs from their revisionist '60s flashback, focusing their fascination on flower power's dark demise with violent warfare imagery and unapologetic, unrestrained instrumental excess.
With 2006's Passover and its follow-up Directions To See a Ghost, The Black Angels coasted favorably into the hearts of record nerds, college kids and guitar-friendly stoners with hazy, hypnotic beats, plodding tempos, echoic drones and dark lyrics all borrowed equally and unabashedly from The Doors and The Velvet Underground. (Even their logo is a photocopy of Velvet collaborator Nico.) The outcome has been either the whirring path to nirvana or the sidewalk of boredom, depending on who's listening — and under what influence. Unwavering tempos lost in an echo-y sea of fog and fuzz will take the sober mind only so far.
To hear their latest, Phosphene Dream, kick off with opener "Bad Vibrations," the title and tempo alone make it clear that The Black Angels are still intent on harshing your mellow and melting your brain — that is, until about halfway through, when the tempo abruptly kicks into an overdriven freak-out and the record proceeds to rip a few more pages from the drug-rock handbook. Frontman Alex Maas' Morrison-esque vocal cadence has matured in favor of melody, and the Angels have ditched most of the indulgent dirges for the streamlined, catchier approach of psych pioneers 13th Floor Elevators.
The tributes don't stop there. As they stumble and strut through the more colorful edges of the dark side, tracks like "River of Blood" and "Yellow Elevator #2" dial back the haze to reveal eerie melodies, more violent imagery and foreboding surf guitar reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. "True Believers" gets downright creepy as it relents into blood-curdling, organ-driven repose and a pretty spot-on Grace Slick impression that makes you wonder if this is what it was like to hear Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" before time wore it down into a corny relic.
But unlike their previous two efforts, tracks like "Telephone" and "Sunday Afternoon" — which homages 13th Floor Elevators so hard they actually employ an electric jug — are groovy, bluesy British Invasion party jams offering a few beams of light in an otherwise dark cloud of reverb and menacing tones.
Like a great many bands of their ilk — Brian Jonestown Massacre, Warlocks and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, for starters — The Black Angels have increasingly become notorious for essentially making a career out of a sound instead of songs. And while their psych-rock worship and direct, flagrant referencing thereof hasn't curbed in the slightest, they've added much-needed focus to the mix. That is to say, Phosphene Dream leaves more in your head than amplified pot smoke. There are songs lurking in there, and pretty damn good ones, stolen directly from some of the best thieves in rock 'n' roll.
Joining the Angels at Exit/In will be openers and fellow stoner-psych enthusiasts Dead Meadow, who have recently taken a break from recording their newest — their first in three years — to embark with the Angels as well as earthy, genre-bending country-Western surrealists Spindrift on a tour for which I've run out of psychedelic-related adjectives to describe.
Awesome!Love everything Jerry puts out. Definitely check out the Tue Mommies bandcamp for more golden…
the no droning rule is fucking dumb
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning...wait, what? That's not napalm??!"
This is my baby, there are many like it, but this one is mine
Graham Winchester (with gun) poses with his son Murdock moments before Wednesday night's "Magnum PI"…