On Black Mountain’s “IV”, The Unexpected Ingredient Is Sincerity

Since Black Mountain’s eponymous debut in 2005, followed one year later by Pink Mountaintops’ maiden voyage, we’ve viewed both of Stephen McBean’s vehicles as tandem expressions of his already heterodox talents.  The influences on his songwriting apparent early on included Modern Dance-era Pere Ubu, New York’s No Wave bands, and when he and Amber Weber sang a duet on “Druganaut,” it sounded much more like Sly and The Family Stone than X, which was interesting.  The homages to Led Zeppelin, the cheesy Deep Purple keyboards, the clear reference to Station To Station-era Bowie: it soon all added up to a dazzling porridge, heavy and melodic at the same time, with deadly seriousness offset by antic glimpses.  Black Mountain could — and on the great Wilderness Heart did — play proto-metal and punk, back to back.  And with other band members launching such disparate vehicles as Lightning Dust and Blood Meridien, the Black Mountain Army was seemingly as potent a force in modern music as the Elephant Six Collective.

But even with certain surface charms, 2014’s Pink Mountaintops album, Get Back, was a turnoff.  Suddenly it triggered, at least in Tulip Frenzy’s World HQ, a reassessment, as it rendered McBean’s magpie plucking of influences suspect.  We wondered who the real McBean was: the distant bandleader launching his attack from Vancouver, or one more cool cat taking on the world from L.A.?  With only their fourth album in 11 years, we now have the answer, at least from Black Mountain: IV is their best full album since they took their name from the large pile of Afghani sitting on the table in front of them.

Even their naming convention is a reminder of the influence of Zep, but on IV, the seemingly biggest influences on McBean and company is their own prior work, as a band and an aggregation of the sister bands.  “You Can Dream” sounds like something Lightning Dust would play at Edinburgh Castle.  The opener, “Mothers Of The Sun,” is their best long-form construction since “Bastards Of Light.”  The combination of McBean and Weber has never sounded stronger, and on a song like “Constellations,” you have all of Black Mountain’s charms in one interplanetary locus.  After the last ersatz and kitschy Pink Mountaintops outing, McBean returns with something that sounds, dare we say it, sincere.

All is forgiven.  Black Mountain’s fourth record is their best yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: