Review Summary: Pitchfork sweats to the 70s
According to Black Mountain, the future of rock music will retrogress, for their image and music is straight out of 70s psychedelic rock. Yet they open for Coldplay and Pitchfork hails their music as “Best New Music.” Why? Black Mountain are a breath of fresh air, especially coming out of Canada, an indie and post-rock hotbed hosting The Arcade Fire, Do Make Say Think, and Stars. The wild, untamed long hair, the screaming Hammond organ, and rusty guitar sounds all conjure an image much gruffer than the current music scene.
Furthermore, the band starts their latest album, In The Future
, with about as perfect a hook as they could. “Stormy High” immediately introduces a bluesy, grooving guitar riff through sloppy distortion while the organ accompanies the band with high, shimmering chords. While not showing off the concept in full form, the band’s male and female vocalists weave in and out of each other’s melodic lines. “Angels” brings the energy down, demonstrating a more subtle side to the band with jagged guitar chords and more unified vocal harmonies. “Tyrants” tops everything by slamming the two sounds together in one eight-minute epic that feels at times like Zeppelin and at times like Queen. The uptempo blues sections are faster, the slower ballad sections are slower, the quieter sections go acoustic, and thus the song is a concise nugget of the band’s entire sonic spectrum.
Unfortunately, that is just the problem with the album. The opening three songs give the entire album away and everything else simply feels like a repeat of those songs. “Tyrants” clearly marks the album’s climax, and nothing comes close to matching its quality. On “Stay Free”, the band attempts an acoustic ballad, but the falsetto vocals become grating after a few minutes and the lyrics are at times ridiculous (i.e. the wailing of “oh beautiful ponies, so beautiful, they’ll kill us all”). “Evil Ways” manages to redeem the album with tribal rhythms and a catchy keyboard riff. With Black Mountain’s sound, the music works much better as fun and bouncy rather than epic and emotional. Near the tail end of the album, the band extends about six or seven minutes worth of music “Bright Lights” to over 16 minutes by continuously repeating riffs. The first four minutes have the most annoying vocals of the entire album, with both vocalists continuously repeating the title of the song. Halfway through the song, the organist plays a lengthy rubato interlude that, while well written, could have been cut in half without losing any effect. Finally, the rest of the band enters and builds to a huge climax, but after fifteen minutes of boredom, hardly anything could redeem the entire song.
In the Future
demonstrates that Black Mountain is an incredibly talented band caught up in their own sound. The first three songs will undoubtedly hook any listener into continuing the album, but the listener will find nothing as impressive as that opening statement. Still, if you’re looking for a refreshing listen of 70s psychedelic rock, look no further than “Tyrants.”