Listening Booth: Black Mountain, “In the Future”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

The two biggest criticisms that Black Mountain’s In the Future is likely to receive are the following:

1. STONERS
2. They’re not doing anything “new”

These points do hold weight. It’s highly likely that this is a band that likes drugs, hard rock and heavy metal, particularly from the ’70s. Hell, they put the word “high” in the first song! That said, here are two rebuttals:

1. Neither of those things have stopped bands of a lesser caliber go on to meet some level of success (Wolfmother, for example — not to knock them, that album was fun for awhile, too.)
2. That doesn’t mean that this can’t be good.

“Stormy High” doesn’t surprise. It’s not hard to tell where it’s going within the first couple minutes. Yeah, these guys like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. In a smart move, they’ve tempered the influence some, so this isn’t just a repeat of every other band from this decade that liked Zeppelin and Sabbath to the point that they decided to mimic them outright.

Black Mountain – Angels

Then come “Angels” and “Tyrants,” and any predictions one might have had about the rest of the album seem a little less accurate. “Angels” is truly magnificent. It’s fantastically minimalist for the genre, with just a simple, heavy guitar line, a high-hat, female-male duet vocals, and the brief addition of keyboards here and there. It’s as beautiful as a song like this could possibly get. On the other hand, “Tyrants” is all over the place, in the most exciting way. They transition from another rollicking jam, to a sludgy slower one complete with a woman doing her greatest Grace Slick and Patti Smith wailing vocals, then back to a heavy thrasher, only to end it acoustically. The greatest achievement in all of this is that these vastly different transitions sound completely natural, as opposed to jarring and out of place as one might imagine they could be.

That’s not to say there aren’t the typical things normally found on albums like this. “Wucan” outwardly sounds like a deliberate stoner jam, “Bright Lights” never gets anywhere interesting so it just feels too long (maybe they should’ve just continued “Tyrants”), and the lyrics for “Queens Will Play” have “blood” in almost every sentence. Still, some of its ridiculousness provides highlights, such as the line “beautiful ponies / so beautiful they’ll kill us all,” in “Stay Free.” (Seriously. Jump to 1:47 in the song if you don’t believe me.)

Black Mountain – Stay Free

Yes, your enjoyment of In the Future will likely increase with the THC levels in your system, but there are only one or two tracks where this is a little too overt. Plus, let’s face it, that can be said of a large amount of music, even some critical darlings (Sonic Youth, anyone?). And yes, this doesn’t exactly break ground, but it does manage to be diverse and unexpected. If you can get past some snobbish prejudices that might keep you from listening to or enjoying this, then there’s a treat waiting for you on the other side.