Friday, May 09, 2008

The Song Remains The Same

The Black Angels - Never/Ever

The Black Angels return with their second album, 'Directions To See A Ghost', and pick things up pretty much where they left off with 2006's 'Passover'. The Texans deliver another collection of doom-laden drone'n'roll gems, with Alex Maas's disconnected preacher's yowl holding court over a solid wall of distorted guitars and Stephanie Bailey's motorik, tribal drumming. The reference points (13th Floor Elevators, VU, Spacemen 3) hold steady, and thankfully, they are still angry and politically charged (the Iraq war is still a major influence on the band’s lyrics), and it is this seething discontent that drives the majority of the album. A couple of years of solid gigging has served them well, and even though their shtick hasn't changed all that much (nor would you want it to), there is an increased depth and complexity to their sound - the production is more robust and their use of sitars (particularly on 'Deer-Ree-Shee') adds some mystical Eastern flavour.

The album's centre piece is the sprawling epic 'Never/Ever', which recalls the psychedelic majesty of the Doors (namely 'The End' and 'Not To Touch The Earth'), with Kyle Hunt's dance-on-your-grave keyboards aping Ray Manzarek, amid the scuzzy guitars. 'Science Killer' sounds like Clinic on mogadon - in fact, I'm sure if you bought the album on vinyl and played it at 45rpm it would sound just like Clinic. Both bands are adept at recreating authentic 1960s vibes, and Maas's vocals aren't a million miles away from Clinic's Ade Blackburn. Much as I love the Angels, even I must draw the line at the over indulgence of 16-minute album closer, 'Snake In The Grass' - there's far better songs they could have riffed on into infinity - but thankfully, things are tighter elsewhere with recent single, 'Doves', the closest the Black Angels will ever get to being radio-friendly. I wonder how long it will be before these armageddon-prediciting survivalists down guitars and head to the wilderness to live in caves Manson-family style, so best make the most of them while you can.

'Directions To See A Ghost' is released in the UK by Light In The Attic Records on May 12th 08. Pre-order the album now from Norman Records
The Black Angels MySpace - the band are embarking on an extensive tour of the UK, starting at ATP Festival on May 10th 08 - check here for full tour listings...
The Black Angels website
Light In The Attic Records website