Black Mountain’s Stephen McBean turned 16 after Woodstock but before Varg started burning down Norwegian churches. And yet, until just two short years ago, McBean had lived his entire adolescence and adult life without a proper driver’s license, that first and most coveted ticket to personal independence. Black Mountain’s new album, Destroyer, is imbued with all that wild-ass freedom and newfound agency (and anxiety and fear) that comes with one’s first time behind the wheel.
Destroyer, named after the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car, is structured around the feeling of driving a hot rod. The album exists in the middle of the early-to-mid 80s Los Angeles war between punk and hair metal – it’s exhilarating, spirited, and dangerous. Throughout, youthful themes run rampant: “Boogie Lover” cruises down the Sunset Strip, “Horns Arising” is a fill-up at a desert gas station just in time to see a UFO hovering near a mesa, and “High Rise” rounds out a sense of teenage discovery.
To create Destroyer, McBean shacked himself up in his rehearsal space and invited over friends from the endless rock’n’roll highway, bringing to life 22 songs. While some were laid back into shallow graves to dig up once again at a later date, the others were left above ground and polished and given life, some transformed by longtime band member Jeremy Schmidt. This generation of Black Mountain also sees new members Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun) and Adam Bulgasem (Dommengang & Soft Kill) as well as familiar collaborators Kliph Scurlock (Flaming Lips), Kid Millions (Oneida) and John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans). Collectively, there’s a renewed vitality to Black Mountain on Destroyer — a seasoned, veteran of heady hard rock that’s found new, young muscles to flex and roads to explore.
With Supports Mass Datura
In October 2018, London band Mass Datura were deep in the French countryside, holed up at Capitola Analogue, studio of French producer and drummer Nico Brusq. There they recorded 11 tracks straight to tape, capturing band leader Thomas’ Rowe’s songs with an immediate energy and analogue warmth. The resulting album, Wish Untitled, is a personal, but willingly shared, journey through the emotional upheavals we’re all familiar with; fractured companionships, the perils of damaging dependency and crumbling under the weight of a world that doesn’t care.
Rowe, who hails from Canada, writes often surprising and playful songs that draw from an unusually broad patchwork of experiences: from growing up in a working-class family next door to a First Nations Reservation on Vancouver Island, to becoming a sponsored skateboarder in San Francisco/LA, to winding up a bespoke shoemaker in London. Rowe has also published three books of his own idiosyncratic poetry and exhibited his collage art. In Mass Datura, named for the poisonous vespertine plants said to help witches levitate, he is joined by Patrick Bartlett on drums, Joseph Colkett on bass, Alice Hubley on synths and mellotron, and Leanne Roberts on violin, Joshua hayward (The Horrors) on Pedal steel.
Wish Untitled is a follow up to 2017’s Sentimental Meltdown, an album that was critically well received (God Is in the tv zine review) and saw the band playing at Liverpool Psych Fest, as well as touring with the likes of Black Angels, A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Mountain and Greg Ashley.