Sonic Reducer: Black Mountain

August March
3 min read
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After spending the first part of the weekend wondering whether rocanrol was dead, and getting the feeling that it might be while listening to a variety of new and awesome hip-hop records, I let go of my negative approach to the genre and listened to the new Black Mountain record. Certainly using Roman numerals to designate a title and direction forward whilst looking back has extra-magical qualities; hell the strategy worked wonders for Led Zeppelin. Why shouldn’t it work for a quintet of Vancouverites hellbent on securing rock’s Golden Fleece as they trip languidly through psychedelic influences, synthetic syncretism and cannabis-induced dreams? It does, but IV ends up existing in a rarefied musical universe where disco never developed and rap was just a fever dream. Still tracks like opener “Mothers of the Sun” move past simple derivation and to a place where epic, instrumentally complex West-Coast tuneage with searching vocals still reigns supreme.

Weezer Weezer (The White Album) (Atlantic)

Rivers Cuomo reminds me of Brian Wilson, not so much in form as in execution. I have visions of the former fretting over the majesty of Rubber Soul, working feverishly to understand and overcome its understated, folky elegance, then languishing as each subsequent release by the Fab Four sent Wilson reeling with the mind-crippling realization that he just couldn’t keep up with Lennon and McCartney. Cuomo’s had 20 years of other rockers’ releases (past the coming and going of a fine first record and its strangely alluring follow up, Pinkerton) to come up to speed. Instead he’s chosen to continually digress, wandering from rocanrol flower to rocanrol flower without ever continuously demonstrating his own mastery. It’s fitting that Weezer’s latest eponymous album is buried in the same surf and sand that damn near suffocated Wilson. Although some reviewers see this latest attempt at catching up to be heroic parody, it sounds like Cuomo is content to sound like other bands because he still hasn’t figured out who he really is.

Cheap Trick Bang, Zoom, Crazy ... Hello (Big Machine Records)

What would a weekend filled with ponderings over the efficacy and sustainability of decent rocanrol music be without a review of the latest album by Cheap Trick? They were notable in the ‘70s for brandishing radio-friendly, hook-laden pop gems while also languishing laboriously in a mediocrity normally reserved for jokers like KISS. Cheap Trick, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, have been through the ringer living up to their great moments while trying to establish an identity that has been elusive, given the poptastic nature and adolescent ambience of their work. On Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, the band soldiers on without the jocular chops of drummer Bun E. Carlos, who has been replaced by guitarist Rick Nielson’s son, Daxx. The result is formidable but alien to practically anything that has to do with music today. Tracks such as “Roll Me” find the band in fine form, battling bravely even as their peers and fans surrender to things like age, hip-hop music and Black Mountain.

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