Song of the day – 165: The Black Angels
Holy Bangs, but they get it.
Many bands have tried to use Spaceman 3, or perhaps 13th Floor Elevators, as a leaping off point. They all fucking miss it. Almost every single one. Indeed, just about the last band I caught that did get it was Queens Of The Stone Age, circa their first album. Bangs alive, they went off the boil fast, didn’t they?
Here, treat yourselves.
So whatever. I can’t write about the new Black Angels album right now because I am so in awe with what they’ve achieved. I am so in fucking awe.
Here, treat yourselves again, go and worship at the fucking altar, pre-order or download illegally or rape your pet dog’s first-born or do whatever you have to do to obtain the forthcoming Black Angels album Phosphene Dream and then don’t come fucking whining round these parts about how rock is dead or such misinformed bullshit when there’s… Bangs wept! This band. This band! THIS BAND!!!
OK. This is what I wrote, reviewing their debut album Passover, back in 2006… Jesus fuck. I know I don’t listen to as much fuzz-laden psych-rock freak out as before, but this album is mighty. Relentless. Surging. Repetitive. Billowing. Layers of guitar layered upon layers of guitar layered upon a primitive, animal beat courtesy of Stephanie Bailey. Voices, deadened and hopeless. Primal guitars that long ceased referencing any music since 1968. In places, reminiscent of the Velvets (and of course Spacemen 3), shorn of all artifice and given foot-look fringes to peer from gloomily. Six members – two girls, four boys, all from Austin, Texas – and a debut album that is perfect for late night immersion, immolation, inspiration.
(This band have always got it.)
And here’s an interview I did with them for the same record, for Plan B #15.
This is a trip.
“We don’t try to be overtly political,” drawls guitarist Christian Bland, son of a Presbyterian preacher man. “We try to talk about life, and what’s happening.”
“A mysterious vibe flows through each song,” states drummer Stephanie Bailey, a former marketing and English student. “Images of war…modern day chaos…heaven and hell whether they exist or not…Some songs are darker than other.”
This is a trip – a bad trip: a trip where lights hover ominously overhead and you wish to fuck you took drugs because then at least you could explain these feelings of doom, depression, decay, despair away: a claustrophobic trip because the twenty-somethings know that this time, their generation, there’s no fucking way they can escape the shadow of The Bomb, that the apocalypse is coming whether they want it or no; a heady trip as drums explode and psych rock guitar layers upon psych rock guitar, and heavy stoner groove follows heavy stoner groove; a trip like the primordial metal Gods and Leary acolytes once took, but made more contemporaneous by relentless magnetic devotion; a trip like Spacemen 3 once took on ‘Revolution’, or Queens Of The Stone Age made on their debut, or – God damn it, I don’t want to mention Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but three out of four members of the Texas six-piece The Black Angels do, and who am I to swim against a flow?
“It’s dark, trance-y and ominous,” muses multi-instrumentalist Kyle Hunt, the man who helped the Angels record the post-millennial Passover, a thunderous, monstrous debut of an album. “It moves. It’s got swagger. It’s drone-y enough to keep you fixated but the vocal melodies are really good.”
This is a good trip: one wherein you can easily lose yourself, one for when you get fed up of listening to The Velvet Underground’s ominous, looming ‘Black Angel’s Death Song’…hold on, I have a feeling I know where this band’s name came from…but want more, much more of the same. It hurts. It soothes. It comforts. It fucking soliloquises. The Black Angels have been together for around two years – ever since Christian reunited with his friend from Junior High in Seabrook, Texas (right by NASA), vocalist Alex Maas – and the groove is just starting to get grounded.
“I grew up in a small country town in Texas called Gun Barrel City,” reveals keyboardist Jennifer Raines, daughter of a funeral parlour director. “When I was 11 or 12, my mom gave me The Doors’ album LA Woman. That was my save.”
“On stage, the music takes over,” Christian explains. “It’s almost a ceremony when we play. The music flows through, and everything else disappears.”
Sometimes (‘Bloodhounds On My Trail’), The Black Angels sound like Dandy Warhols but we’re in a good mood today so we won’t let that bother us. But mostly this is a fucking angry trip – charged and depressed by the US of A’s warmongering stance. The Black Angels fear for their own future and use that fear to psych themselves further. Paranoia and anger: there’s plenty of motivation here. Check ‘Young Men Dead’. Check the new single, ‘The First Vietnamese War’ – no one learns a fucking thing from history, not one.
“Being here in Texas, people are very supportive of George Bush,” grimaces Christian. “Here in Austin, it’s a little more liberal. He’s from Connecticut. He claims Texas as his home state. Welcome to Texas: home of George W Bush – that’s funny.”
He’s not laughing.