The Black Angels Phone It In
The Black Angels are a throwback band, catering to safe psychedelic nostalgia. Like a liquor-powered rendition of “White Rabbit” via live-band karaoke, there’s only so much edge and originality to be had. And though The Black Angels tend to specialize in the type of Strawberry Alarm Clock blares and Doors-esque wails they’ve come to be known and loved for, almost all of Indigo Meadow feels like the band is simply phoning it in. Opener and album namesake “Indigo Meadow” comes swirling in with spooky monster-mashed effects, filling every space between frontman Alex Maas’ militant, clipped vocals and the occasional organ break and driving drumline.
Supposed standout track “Don’t Play With Guns” comes off equally trite, acting almost as a parody of itself and the pacifist jams that set the musical scene for The Black Angels to even think of crafting such a track. Lyrics aside, the production makes for a relatively decent listen. Megaphone-soaked vocals actually bolster the frailty of Maas’ voice, its frenetic insistence at once vulnerable and completely unhinged. The track’s swirling ending loses the listener, however. Where the stage has more than been set for some quality guitar jams of the highest order, “Don’t Play With Guns” simply trails off into the quiet jungle vibes of “Holland.”
Psychedelia reigns supreme from mid-album on, as The Black Angels keep delving deeper into their trip, striving and reaching for more. Less snags are hit during the comedown, as with “I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia),” and its straightforward crash after crash of drums and guitar. One of the highlights of Indigo Meadow has one of the corniest titles: however possessive and legitimately unromantic “You’re Mine” may be, its Donovan-inspired flight through fuzzed-out bass and organ blending into guitar is probably the most structurally sound of the thirteen tracks. Indigo Meadow finishes out on a moderately high note with “Black Isn’t Black,” another love song, of sorts, with the type of basement aesthetic reserved for a particularly gnarly comedown. We can only hope the next trip’s not so bad.