Whatever thought that crossed your mind and inclined you to believe psychedelia in music was confined to the 1960s should be dashed. Psych-rockers The Black Angels prove that trippy rock ‘n’ roll is still kicking now in 2013, and its most recent record and fourth full-length album “Indigo Meadow” is just that: 13 guitar riff-centric songs nuanced by pipes and keys exhibiting indisputable influence from The Doors and King Crimson. This sound works as well as it does poorly on “Indigo Meadow.”
The issue lies in the album’s aforementioned character. “Indigo Meadow” shifts only slightly throughout its length, using the same tricks to simulate its psychedelic vision. This is picked just before the halfway point in the record, with “Love Me Forever.” This tune has a swirling, driving guitar line as a centerpiece. Lead singer Alex Maas’ voice is a worthy contender for the role of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant in The Black Angels, but lacks Plant’s shrill and virtuosity. “Always Maybe” features a tremolo effect in Maas’ voice that proves rather nifty, until it’s proven exhausted on the next several songs. Additionally, organ-like sounds and the constant augmented guitar fall in the same trap as that tremolo.
“Indigo Meadow” is very much an album defined with bombastic, power chord stretches. “War on Holiday” and “Don’t Play With Guns” can be characterized by their fuzzed-out motives. These songs reflect a departure from the kaleidoscopic quality that dominates the record to a garage-rock feel. This seems to operate in good form for The Black Angels, although the psychedelic tinge that the band attempts to supply fails on these pieces – and nothing is done here for innovation’s sake – they are complete ideas.
It is thus unfortunate when The Black Angels put out a song like “I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)” toward the end of the record. The essence of this song is washed out, as Maas sings: “I hear colors running through my mind / I can feel them dripping in my eye.” That is only the beginning. Maas continues to sing/discuss about the singer’s experience with chromaesthesia, or the ability to “hear” colors. While this idea and the sonic tradition this song upholds may have been mind-blowing years ago, it is hard not to feel that it is a cheap reference to the hallucinatory time period it is meant to invoke.
The Black Angels are great “rock and rollers,” but it is hard to see the psychedelic texture as the one for the band. It may be best to pick and choose from “Indigo Meadow” – find the songs that have appropriated the past properly into a garage tradition as opposed to the trippy one the band tries to fashion for the most part.