A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Michigan Correspondent
One night after a party, around 1:30am, I walked by Clothier Hall – the beautiful old theater and convocation hall on campus – and heard someone playing Pink Floyd’s LP, Meddle, over the at what seemed like infinity decibels. I walked in, sat in the back, in the pitch black and let the sound wash over me… The closest I ever came to replicating that experience was an even later night, at the college radio station playing Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” underneath two huge speakers hanging from the ceiling as loud as I could stand it. Who needs drugs when you’ve got volume?
Ever since then, I’ve had a thing for explosive peels of shimmering guitar teetering on feedback pulsing with wah. I still love Gang of Four’s “Anthrax” and the whole of Televison’s Marquee Moon give me music-gasms… but neither is psychedelic. When the so-called Paisely Underground grew up out of Davis, Los Angeles and Tucson, there were some close call’s – True West’s version of “Lucifer Sam” is pretty awesome and “Creeping Coastline of Lights” by the Leaving Trains is fried but too quiet. Psychocandy is one hell of a record but it presaged drone more than anything else. I only really got my fix again with Spacemen 3…. And then they broke up. I liked The Darkside and Spiritualized – even saw Spiritualized with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and they each came close without claiming the prize.
I had to wait almost another decade for The Black Angels to fill the gap. The ear-to-ear – what in my youth we called the shit-eating – grin on my face the first time I heard the five songs that start off Passover (2006) lasted for days. I couldn’t listen to the album often enough. The Doors meet the MC5 by way of The 13th Floor Elevators. Or maybe it was more like Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce bringing Dick Dale over to David Gilmore’s place. The band’s name clearly references the Velvet Underground’s “Black Angel’s Death Song” – does anyone but me love Clock DVA’s version of that tune? – but I don’t hear a lot of VU in the band’s work.
Most folks have deep affection – or no tolerance – for (neo-)psychedelia and I’d imagine this is going to be a love it or hate it ICA. If you give it a shot, play it loud. Reverse delay, creamy fuzz, gritty reverb, buzzing vibrato, hairy feedback, and liquid echoes wash over leftish anti-war, indigeneity-supporting, environmentally consciousness lyrics… and Alex Maas’ voice is perfect for the often three-guitar roar. And when they’re quieter, you can all-but feel the monster straining at the chain.
This ICA works pretty well imagined as an LP, consider a pause between Half Believing and Holland, as if you were flipping the record…
1. The Black Angels – Currency – from Death Song (2017)
2. The Black Angels – Entrance Song (Rain Dance version) – from Phosphene Nightmare EP (2011)
3. The Black Angels – The Flop – from Clear Lake Forest EP (2014)
4. The Black Angels – Young Men Dead – from Passover (2006)
5. The Black Angels – Half Believing – from Death Song (2017)
6. The Black Angels – Holland – from Indigo Meadow (2013)
7. The Black Angels – Soul Kitchen (Doors cover) – from A Psych Tribute to the Doors (2014)
8. The Black Angels – You on the Run – from Directions to See a Ghost (2008)
9. The Black Angels – Prodigal Sun – from Passover (2006)
10. The Black Angels – Life Song – from Death Song (2017)
Bonus: Clock DVA – Black Angel’s Death Song (Velvet Underground cover) – from Advantage (1983)