Thursday, May 8, 2008

Album Review: The Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost

I first heard the new Black Angels album, Directions to See a Ghost, about a week before I left for Coachella. Since then, it’s pretty much been the only thing I’ve been listening to. I’ve woken up with the Black Angels, gone to work with the Black Angels, fallen asleep with the Black Angels, and flown to California with them. And guess what? I’m listening to them at this very moment, too. If you’re not already as in love with them as I am, prepare yourself, because you soon will be.

The Austinian band made quite an impression with their debut Passover, a swirling, pulsating mess of 60s psych-rock drenched in drone and resonating with reverb and political themes. It was almost too good to be true, and my thoughts wandered immediately to how they could possibly follow up such a good LP. My fears were put to rest as soon as I heard the first few notes of opening track “You on the Run.” The sound and the fury of their nouveau psychedelia is very much present and accounted for. Second song “Doves” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Black Angels songs, with waves of guitar effects and a powerfully hypnotic beat. Singer Alex Maas shines on this (and well, every other) song, his brassy, slightly off-kilter howl adding to the unmistakable sound of the Black Angels.

It took me a few listens to make it past the fifth track, “18 Years,” because I was seduced by that damned fine bassline. This is sex in song form, and it’s completely and utterly intoxicating. It’s astonishingly good, and for days I listened to it repeatedly. “Deer-Ree-Shee” is next, heavy with sitar and laden with complexity. The band gets all political again, especially on songs like “Vikings,” one of the most haunting tracks on the album. Maas’ flat delivery is backed by mesmerizing, throbbing drumming, and spouts forth lyrics about German warships and bombing you “til tomorrow.”

I cannot possibly endorse Directions to See a Ghost enough. It’s one of those rare albums where nothing anyone can say about it could even begin to do it justice. You just have to bite the bullet, buy it, and experience it for yourself. It is, thus far, my album of the year. It’s a full-scale assault on the senses. In the aftermath, you won’t know which way is up, what year it is, and quite possibly what your name is. And let me tell you, you’re gonna love every single second of it.

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