Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Protest And Survive

The Black Angels - Black Grease

Much as you can admire the work of the likes of Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke and Chris Martin in raising awareness of key global issues like Fair Trade, I’m often left with the feeling that they’ve made it the preserve of the middle-class. The worthy do-goodery of the modern rock star has turned protest and the concept of the protest song into something that has more than a whiff of the naff about it. Even the current crop of folk singers, one of the original formats for the protest song, would rather sing about fairies, yellow spiders and life in the forest than rail against war, poverty and globalisation. And let’s face it, it’s not like there isn’t plenty going on in the world today that you could find to rant about in a song.

What we want is some anger, some fury, some rage against the machine from new bands just breaking out, rather than those established and comfortably wealthy and therefore with very little to lose apart from time spent scrubbing slogans off their hands. Welcome then, the Black Angels, a six-piece outfit from Austin, Texas who are marching forward into battle for your souls. Taking their name from the Velvet Underground song ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’, their debut album, ‘Passover’, released in the US in April of this year, finally gets a UK release on the 9th October 2006 on Light In The Attic Records.

Speaking about the album, lead guitarist Christian Bland said: “The entire album parallels what's going on now with what happened in the 1960s. 'The First Vietnamese War' is about learning from our mistakes so that we don't ever fall into the trap of a Second Vietnamese War, which the current war in Iraq is panning out to be. There should never be a Second Vietnamese War. Our message is one of telling people to wipe the sleep out of their eyes, and to WAKE UP. Open up your mind and let everything come through,” he urges, quoting Rocky Erickson, “because closed minds lead to open caskets.”

Stephanie Bailey’s martial drumming and the drone of Jennifer Raines’ organ drive ‘Passover’, and the primitive recording techniques give it an authentic 1960s feel, much beloved of UK act Clinic (singer Alex Maas’s delivery is not unlike that of Clinic frontman Ade Blackburn). This is ten tracks of heavy psychedelic stoner rock, packed with confessional lyrics (“You gave a gift to me, in my young age, you sent me overseas, and put the fear in me” from ‘The First Vietnamese War’), images of self-destruction (the garage grunge of ‘Black Grease’) and even an anti-materialist protest song (sprawling album closer ‘Call To Arms’). Audible influences range from fellow drone rockers Spacemen 3 and the 13th Floor Elevators to Black Sabbath. ‘Passover’ is a powerful and bold statement of intent, and one that really resonates when played at speaker-quaking volume. The album artwork is also amazing, as raised winding lines of black and white spell their name and the album title.

Pre-order 'Passover' from Amazon
The Black Angels official website
The Black Angels at Light In The Attic Records, featuring a full mp3 download of 'The First Vietnamese War' and tour dates
The Black Angels at My Space
Check You Tube for Black Angels videos and live performances