Black Mountain: Black Mountain

Black Mountain
Black Mountain


Like The Monkees, Black Mountain's self-titled debut albums starts with a manifesto. "Modern Music," plump with rock sax and white-souled girl coos, has Stephen McBean singing with blank-generation sangfroid, "1-2-3/Another pop explosion!/1-2-3/ Another hit recording!" Then, lest the irony go unnoticed, he spits, "We can't stand/Your modern music/We feel afflicted." The Vancouver band's disdain for modernity grows more evident as the record proceeds, and thankfully we're not talking about a fondness for the tepid-Brit-disco-rehash-fashion-forward 4/4 that reigns supreme these days. Strummy, urgent psyche workouts give way to heavy '70s stomp. At times, the album sounds like Dylan on the Rolling Thunder tour--except the Velvet Underground rather than the Band are backing him up. Composed mainly of members of barely-known-outside-the-Pacific-Northwest-punk-ne'er-do-wells Jerk With a Bomb, the five-piece generally keep their scrappy roots to themselves and stick with a brooding rock formalism usually ascribed to bar bands. Without reading the bio, you'd never be the wiser that Black Mountain (or their porn-rock alter ego Pink Mountain) is really a gang of hirsute politico-punks with tattooed fists.

The band's secret weapon, and only consistently beardless member, Amber Webber (often caught playing Michael McDonald to McBean's Donald Fagen), has a velvety voice steeped in a haggard quiver that suggests she's seen the other side and is worn out by this mortal coil. Recalling Patti Smith Band's least lucid moments, she cuts through the righteous sludgery like an arc welder. McBean and Webber's dueting is seamless, notably on the bleak war narrative and album closer "Faulty Times," on which their voices--sweet, weary, and raw--rise over the shambling solos and trilling Hammond organ. "'Cause nobody likes/your fucked-up plans/of shooting up some foreign land," they sing, etching modern sentiments on their decidedly un-modern sound.

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