Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Black Angels / Passover / Rating: 7.2

"Like seasoned trackers, these Texas-based psych-rockers gingerly place their steps directly in the petrified footprints left by the Velvet Underground and the slightly fresher ones of Spacemen 3, following the path without disturbing its flora and fauna."

Trust me when I say basically every review of The Black Angels’ Pass Over reads pretty much the same. I could hyper link 5 or 10 reviews to prove my point but I’ve already posted a review like that recently and I think we all understand that many a music journalist relies on press kits and safely stating the obvious rather than stepping out on a limb and offering a new perspective of a band or actually having a strong opinion...though in fairness Pitchfork (and Stylus) writers are occasionally exceptions to this rule.

Oh and forgive me Brian Howe, for some reason the reviews I pick (on) always seem to be his and it certainly has nothing to do with him personally. The records I know best or have in my possession seem to mirror the ones he writes about. Weird but anyhow….

It wasn’t until I began this blog that I wondered how other writers approached the records they review. I don’t mean in theme but literally how (and how often) they listened to the music they were trying to describe. I imagine that a great deal of these people listen to music on a closed course meaning in the safety of their own homes, a bubble so to speak. I think we all know any record can sound different on headphones or from day to day. Outside environments (car, parties, bar, store, friend’s home…) or shared among a group of people can further alter our experience with a record so as often as possible I take the records I review on test drives outside of my home.

Enter The Black Angels.

A few times a year I travel to the border of North Carolina and Virginia to VIR for the Historic Sports Car Races. For those of you not tapped into this vintage car community this is a 3.27 mile non oval racetrack where sports cars from the 50’s to the 70’s (all makes and models) spend three days racing against each other in groups broken down by engine power or country of origin.

I still don’t know a hell of a lot about cars but I can tell you after 4 years of attending these events, I am always inspired by the end of the last day to literally race back home to Richmond which is not only dangerous but as you can guess, totally illegal.(no thanks to the 55 mph signs for the first 70 miles heading back home.) What this return trip requires is music that will be a pace car of sorts, something that will tame my pedal to the metal tempo.

Pass Over in all its steady drone and paranoid tribal War Dance rhythm glory was the perfect choice.

What sounds like a supergroup combo of Clinic and The Warlocks (though they are most certainly not) and carries the motto of “Turn on, Tune in, Drone out.” hypnotized me into traveling at a more sedated safe speed yet was interesting enough to keep me awake / content.

It is also important to add that the second pair of ears in the passenger seat never once fell asleep, forwarded to the next track or hit the eject (reject) button.

To be honest I was a little worried this “trip” back home would be an audio disaster. As I mentioned before almost every review of this band props them up against the same few bands, one of which is quite possibly my least favorite bands of all time: the Doors.

PFM says: “It's a long, darkly iridescent screw, glittering feverishly, boring deeper and deeper into the weirdly giddy wartime terror associated with the Doors and Apocalypse Now.”

It’s true. The Jim Morrison vibe is undeniable but luckily that annoying bloated bellowing ghost of a shit poet haunts Pass Over only occasionally and seemed to only take on a stronger presence once I was back home again and listening to it in my office. I was going to rate The Black Angels higher than PFM’s 7.2 but I still can’t swallow that horse pill of a Doors tribute happening. It chokes up an otherwise impressive sinister psych-rock record so blame the hater in me- the low 7 rating stays.