Pink Mountaintops, Black Angels | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Pink Mountaintops, Black Angels 

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Axis of Evol (Jagjaguwar), the latest album from the PINK MOUNTAINTOPS, leans hard into the question of redemption, going so far as to suggest that the answer lies in getting down with God's son (and I don't mean Nas). It's a funny fixation--funny ha-ha and funny strange--because the previous PMs record was a nonstop freakathon where even the elements of fire and water got fucked. The band is technically the solo venture of Stephen McBean, front man and guitarist for Black Mountain, who became indie-popular last year and then toured with Coldplay--but there's only a marginal difference between the two projects, as members of Black Mountain show up in much the same capacity on the PMs' album. Both groups combine shambling Velvet Underground jangle with stoner-rock riffing power and have apparently limited their influences to albums made between 1967 and 1977. The easiest way to tell them apart is that BM shapes its riffs into actual songs and uses more overtly political lyrics, while the PMs have a drum machine and tend to meander rather than rock. For more on Axis of Evol, see Section 1. --Jessica Hopper

Lots of bands have tried to summon the psychedelic spirit and noisy, droning intensity of late-60s rock in recent years--including a clutch of wild-eyed California combos like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Warlocks--but none has captured its primal heat with the authority of the BLACK ANGELS. This six-piece Austin outfit swiped their name from the "The Black Angel's Death Song" by the Velvet Underground, and though they sometimes take their time-warp premise so far it flirts dangerously with pretension--writing songs about Vietnam, touring with their own projectionist--their moody, almost tribal sound sweeps aside any reservations. They made their audacious debut with an excellent self-titled EP last year, and the new full-length Passover (Light in the Attic) outstrips that disc by a long mile, with more fully developed songs and a sharpened sense of musical interplay. Whether soaring to hallucinogenic heights on the Pink Floyd tweak "Sniper at the Gates of Heaven" or weaving a Far Eastern-flavored blues groove on "Better Off Alone," the Black Angels strike the right balance between their obvious influences (the Doors, the Velvets, the Jesus and Mary Chain) and their own voice. Guitarists Christian Bland and Nate Ryan provide much of the music's momentum with their vigorous but single-minded attack, and singer Alex Maas's harried, careening vocals often carry the songs into a place of unrelenting darkness--not so dark, though, that you won't come back for more. --Bob Mehr

The Pink Mountaintops headline, the Black Angels play second, and Catfish Haven opens. Tue 6/13, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10.

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