I first heard about Black Mountain back when they were opening for Coldplay in 2005. Maybe a bit unfairly, I immediately dismissed them as something I probably wouldn’t like due to their tour partners. It wasn’t until last month that I finally heard In The Future (an album that originally appeared on this blog in my “Albums of 2008 That I Wanted To Hear But Didn’t” list), and I was a little shocked as to how wrong I was four years ago.
On paper, nothing Black Mountain does here should work. They somehow manage to use some of the most hokey sounding keyboard tones I’ve ever heard and fuse it with titanic-sized riffs that touch on a great deal of classic rock giants, ie: the Zeppelins, the Floyds, etc. Keep in mind that I really don’t care for either of those two bands, at all. I don’t know. I can’t really put a finger on why this album is so good. It just works. Some of the shit on here wouldn’t sound terribly out of place at a Lord Of The Rings convention, yet I can’t detect a smack of irony or pretension throughout this album’s 57 minutes.
Stephen McBean isn’t the flashiest singer, but that’s probably for the better- if he pushed it too hard, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle this album. OK, just to mention Coldplay again, I guess he sounds like a boozier, Canadian Chris Martin, but just barely. Even in constant-falsetto mode, as exhibited on “Stay Free,” things just click. Even when the 80's-science-TV-show synth comes in about halfway through the song, I just nod my head. I don’t care for Amber Webber’s vocal contributions as much, but I understand their place in the album. “Wucan” has the type of riffs that force you to constantly hit your rewind button- not advisable if one is driving. Throughout it all, Black Mountain displays a knack for the ebb-and-flow, letting parts gradually build to a roar before demurring to quieter sections.
Let me re-iterate how much of a shock it is to me how into this album I am. I usually can’t stand classic rock, or most of the bands that were involved in making it. Black Mountain have somehow made the genre palatable to someone like me. How, I’m not exactly sure. All I know is that this is the type of music that makes me wish I was in Dazed And Confused, driving around while everyone else in the car smokes weed in extremely comical and exaggerated ways.