Any measure you want to throw at it, this is a killer rock album.
Everett True 2010-10-15
You can hear traces of the Black Angels' Texas heritage all over their third album: most obviously 13th Floor Elevators' deranged psych groove on the incredible opener Bad Vibrations, which halfway through knocks the volume up several notches and starts rocking like prime (ie early) Queens of the Stone Age. Does Alex Mass' nasal voice that sounds like it's been tripping down a nearby rabbit hole feel familiar? Have a listen to Jefferson Airplane. This is not to knock The Black Angels' groove – far from it. Simply, wantonly, delightfully, this five-piece have built upon the past without once sounding tired or clichéd.
Haunting at 1300 McKinley could be lifted direct from one of those classic Pebbles compilations of 60s garage bands: a driving, repetitive back-beat matched to distorted guitars and questioning vocals – stare at the sun too long, you're bound to get burned. Yellow Elevator oozes backwards guitar riffs and the odd burst of silence, rustling into the same trippy undergrowth that made Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd such a delight. Some of the riffs here are almost a match for Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, or one of the classic Spacemen 3 sides. You kind of feel that the jug-wielding (another nod to Roky Erickson) Sunday Afternoon is the sort of full-blown psych anthem Oasis could've made, if they'd had an ounce more wit. (Not to slag Oasis, just to point out how high the bar is that The Black Angels are setting.) Pull out the psychedelic light slides and fluid oil patterns, and set them going on high while the strobe machine flickers incessantly.
This sounds authentic, you understand? Both in a 1967 and a 2010 sense. The tempo of the beats owes more to the present-day. The spaced-out guitars and vocals entirely favour the past. It's a great combination. Another parallel? The rollicking, churning True Believers sounds like The Dandy Warhols if they'd ever been any good, while the jangly Telephone could be a just-discovered epochal cut from 60s Australian 'garage' band The Easybeats.
Whereas before, The Black Angels' albums – great as they were – were mostly centred around one incredible track (most noticeably The First Vietnamese War from the 2006 debut album Passover), Phosphene Dream stuns by its quality of depth. In Bad Vibrations, the balls-out River of Blood, Haunting at 1300 McKinley and several others, The Black Angels have written a series of rock anthems to match both the ghosts of the past and tribal-leaders of the present. The title is a reference to PH3, a toxic and explosive gas. It's suitable, trust me.
Rock album of the year, if anyone's counting.