Release Date: Apr 29, 2014
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
The last Pink Mountaintops record, 2009's Outside Love, was a hazy, romantic affair with lots of slow grooves and female vocalists singing alongside ringleader Stephen McBean. The only female vocalist this time around is Giant Drag's Annie Hardy, who delivers a profane rap on North Hollywood Microwaves, inserting a reference to a certain crack-smoking mayor between all the bear-cum jokes. That's a good indication of how much has changed in McBean's world.
Those expecting a retread of the late-night misery and sad Spectorian pop found on Pink Mountaintops’ 2009 release Outside Love will be sorely disappointed with Steve McBean’s follow-up, Get Back. Anyone familiar with McBean’s main band Black Mountain or any of the bands of those assembled (a shortlist including Dinosaur Jr. , Giant Sand, Sunn O))), Cass McCombs, and Brian Jonestown Massacre) however, will know right away that Get Back is a different animal entirely.
Stephen McBean is just one of those dudes, one of the many guys who inspires equal amounts of applause and jealousy because his projects always, in the truest sense of the word, rock. His day job as guitarist, singer and songwriter in the elephantine stoner-rock band Black Mountain has won him critical acclaim and legions of drowsy followers, including chemically-inclined contemporaries like The Black Angels, who covered No Satisfaction with sinister diligence. Some more similarly revered names appear on Get Back, continuing the collaborative ethos that made Pink Mountaintops so enthralling to begin with – J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) appears, as does Steve Kille (Dead Meadow), sometime The Fall member Rob Barbato and his Darker My Love compadre Daniel Allaire (amongst others).
Opening with the fuzz-tastic "Ambulance City," a largely nonsensical lo-fi stadium anthem that falls somewhere between the blasé nihilism of Parquet Courts, the hypnotic, analog synth thrum of early Stereolab, and the erudite, classic rock posturing of the Hold Steady, the Pink Mountaintops' fourth long-player is dense, difficult, intoxicating, and bereft of a single dull moment. As hallucinogen-friendly and headphone-ready as it is willfully lo-fi, the ten-song Get Back is as spirited an outing as anything that Stephen McBean has released with his meal-ticket band, Black Mountain, and while it might lack some of that group's seismic follow-through, it more than makes up for the thunder with ample amounts of psych-fueled electricity. McBean declares 1987 as "The Second Summer of Love" on the album's second cut, a propulsive slab of nostalgia that wrestles and ultimately forces its angular post-punk framework into a shoulder-padded new wave sport coat, a trick used again with great aplomb on the dizzying Echo & the Bunnymen-meets-the Smiths-inspired gem "Wheels.
Stephen McBean has never sounded comfortable within his moment in time. He received the memo that Canadian musicians in the mid-aughts had to have collectives, but his didn’t have a large mass of people, or baroque instrumentation, or feathery indie-pop harmonies. The Black Mountain Collective (yes, it actually referred to itself as a collective) was really just the members of Black Mountain, while Pink Mountaintops was really just McBean playing with, over the course of its history, virtually every other musician he has come into contact with.
Anal sex and bear cum - two ingredients of an explicit rap by Annie Hardy (Giant Drag) on the recent Pink Mountaintops chaotic jazz-like freeform explosion North Hollywood Microwaves that will literally have you thinking ‘whoa, what the fuck was that!’. It’s like nothing the Canadian collaborative led by stoner rock outfit Black Mountain’s undervalued genius Stephen McBean have ever released before and it’s unlikely to be similar to anything you will hear again all year. Hardy had “thrown down two mere freestyles” a while back and then forgotten about them, but they resurfaced with a vengeance as the first taster from the new Pink Mountaintops album, the band’s fourth long player and first since 2009’s acclaimed Outside Love.
Pink Mountaintops has always been Stephen McBean's most ineffable project; the band's sound is generally dictated by whomever McBean is working with at the time of recording. So it's no surprise that the project's long-awaited fourth LP offers yet another sonic shift. If 2009's Outside Love was a celebration of friends and romance, then this is the next day hangover.
Originally started by Black Mountain's Steve McBean as a dreamy, more lo-fi alternative to the hearty rock thrills of the day-job, Pink Mountaintops have evolved across their career to fit the whims of their frontman. Here on their fourth LP, the band seem to be hung up around some sort of second adolescence, crafting a set of fizzing, nostalgic songs that aim to capture that particularly exciting, nihilistic time of life. More often than not they succeed with the atmosphere - Get Back would be a great soundtrack to an unhinged night of debauchery – but it does occasionally feel a little slight when considered alongside the rest of McBean’s output.
Stephen McBean has always made music for the open road. Black Mountain’s lofty mix of proto-metal, prog rock and regal folk suggested late-night drives in the fall, big guitars battling back the crisp autumn air. Meanwhile, Pink Mountaintops—his assumed solo act that’s wrangled together various full bands of collaborators during the last decade—scored perfect spring treks with the top down, as McBean delivered exclamatory anthems about love, friendship and sex.
Pink Mountaintops — Get Back (Secretly Canadian)The best and most consistent Pink Mountaintops album to date, Get Back mines a deep vein of nostalgia via song references, memory-scape imagery, and musical touchstones in kraut rock, post-punk and new wave. Stephen McBean works in varied shades of full-band rock here, steering clear of both solo home-taper experiments and lavishly arranged extravaganzas. There’s one real stylistic departure, the semi-rapped and NC-17-ready “North Hollywood Microwaves” (that’s Annie Hardy from Giant Drag deadpanning stories about getting stomach-pumped with Rod Stewart), but mostly this is laid-back, mildly trippy indie rock.