Music

The Black Angels: Passover

Liam Colle

As clumsily poetic and irresistible as a city storm, these BJM devotees mount an engaging psych-rock rebellion.


The Black Angels

Passover

Label: Light in the Attic
US Release Date: 2006-04-11
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

I catch my reflection in the car windows lining the street. A flash passes through the tinted glass as I walk by. I stop. My cigarette bounces off the curb into the sewer and the bar's windows are shaking with the reverb. The bar is loud, but the haze of lights and smoke soothes the shock of sound. The Black Angels hover on the stage in a fit of psychedelic dirge. It's beautiful and scary. The bar is loud and it's getting darker.

The Black Angels make things seem cooler than they are. Rap videos have slow motion, bad dancers have strobe lights, and now timid rock rebels everywhere have the Black Angels. From their name right down to their quoting of Edvard Munch on their debut album Passover, this Austin, Texas seven-piece has a serious penchant for drawing out the entrancing elements of the darker stuff. It's all gloom and doom, but it slinks along so sexy that it seems more vital than grave.

Shading their stomping groove with echo and drone, this band is something wonderful: spellbinding. They've returned after their winter-released debut EP with this impressive 10-song collection (including three passed over from that release), proving they're no fluke. Seeming like something from a scene in Apocalyspe Now -- if Scorsese had directed it -- Passover comes off like an aural manifestation of a journey into darkness.

A band that doesn't seem inclined to explore any uncharted territory in the world of rock, it's at least refreshing that they communicate such a sense of danger. And that's something sorely missing from the often-safe sounding '00s rock n' rollers. Like their noisy press release exclaims, "These are fighting times people." And sometimes you got to wonder why rock bands don't have more fight to them these days. Green Day starts dressing in black and wearing eyeliner and suddenly they're the lead voice of defiance amongst America's rock musicians? Please; there's more urgency in the hearts and fists of guitar-toting kids than that.

The Black Angels don't instill much substance in the rebellion, but at least they get the style right. It's bleak and it's easy to get lost in it, but there's a fire in the middle of it that keeps burning as long as it pounds in your chest and out your fist. Check out the song titles -- "Call to Arms", "Young Men Dead", "Manipulation", "Empire"... something tells me this band didn't cast any votes for the current US administration. But despite the anti-authoritarian bent of Passover, the album doesn't mire in the boring or preachy. Their protest stance is no pose so it doesn't end up grating.

The Black Angels pull off this nouveau '60s style rebel yell thanks to a simple cinematic aesthetic (it's crude, it's so basic). It's all subterranean tunnels with dangling light bulbs clicking on in sparks. They hold on to that kind of dark mood with death grips -- never relaxing their distorted guitars, drone machines and echo boxes. It's dark and dangerous sounding, and it hardly seems cliché, thanks to a politicized convictions and a delivery as suave as it is strong. Which is to say, they're a kicking rock band: hotheaded, loud and cool.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image