Review Summary: Toddlers running with scissors.
Noise music can often come across as byzantinely self-serious and depressing. But make no mistake - this album is not just a more drug-laden Sonic Youth release. Instead, there is a certain violently gleeful aspect to Lightning Bolt's music. The two Brians (drummer Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson) manage to flesh out soundscapes that are loud, abrasive, frantic yet happy, inviting, communal. It's as if the lego men on the album cover are being constantly thrown at the listener by a hyper child, poking and scraping at their eyes until all that remains are the piercing shrieks of a innocently malicious giggle. And there is a temptation to define this as the experience of listening to Hypermagic Mountain - that of an abused babysitter suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
Luckily this is not actually the case. Above everything else, Hypermagic Mountain is not having fun at the listener's expense, but rather manages to create an empathic connection. The blasting drums and rattling basslines evoke the feeling of a game of tag, with echoes of Chippendale's processed vocals just far away enough to create that feeling of sporting anxiety, of being caught, of losing and having something terrible happen as a result. But after all, it is merely a game, and this is what Lightning Bolt understands. The energy fed into and drawn from their music is not for the smashing of windows but instead an extremely potent subsitute for your morning coffee - the jolt every adult needs once worn down by the grind and bustle of grown-up life. That thrill of being young again.
So how does Lightning Bolt achieve this near-psychedelic trip into our pre-adolescence? The key is to eschew all musical cynicism and to do away with high-brow irony. An effortless cool that can only happen in a band in total sync with each other. Many tracks feel like natural and soulful jam sessions. The culmination of the shepard tone present in the (near) title track feels earned from the flow that precedes, the result is a cacophonic avalanche of tinnitus simulation that would be intolerable on its own but hugely cathartic in its context. The furious Dead Cowboy seems to devolve after its initial verses to a wave of improvisation and noodling to drown under the weight of its own entrancing, almost tribal energy. And the opener 2 Morro Morro Land shows a total lack of restraint that a more "professional" band would feel necessary to grab the attention of the listener. Lightning Bolt does not dabble in this fetishization of convention - instead, both Brians feel confident and comfortable in their musical skills and interplay, which lends the album a hugely organic, honest feel.
Yes, noise music is not for everyone. Even for fans of noise, Lightning Bolt may come across as too in-your-face and childish. But Hypermagic Mountain (together with nearly all of Lightning Bolt's discography, really) rises above this. Anyone that's been to a Lightning Bolt gig knows the energy eminating from this duo of tectonic-sounding bass and firecracker drumming. Even listening at home, it is guaranteed to contort your eyebrows and tremble your limbs in the best possible way, if only you give it the chance. Free that inner child and give them something sharp to play with!