One of the things that I like most about my job is that it allows me the opportunity to listen to, and write about, a variety of styles of music. It serves as a great continuing education for me. Last week, I wrote about a pop group, Augustana, coming out of San Diego with big time major label support, and all the push needed to get them to the top. This week, it’s an indie band from Austin, The Black Angels, who play what they call “hypno-drone rock ‘n’ roll.” In the world of popular music, it’s hard to think of two bands more diametrically opposed in terms of style.

The Black Angels have been the recipients of the kind of buzz on the blogosphere that has proved to be the making of bands like Arcade Fire and Okkervil River. Much of this buzz was generated from an incendiary performance at this year’s SXSW festival in the band’s hometown, and an earlier performance at last year’s Lollapalooza. Their first album, 2006’s Passover, drew comparisons to Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, and the Velvet Underground. Of course the photo of Nico on the cover of that album, and the band’s explanation that they had taken their name from the Velvet’s “Black Angel’s Death Song” may have given some of the critics their ideas. But if positive word-of-mouth speaks to you, this band has got it in spades.

In the end, it all comes down to the music. It doesn’t matter what anyone writes or says, it only matters whether or not the music speaks to you. Another thing I like about Popdose is that we give you a chance to listen to some of the music in order to help you make up your own mind. That is of special value in the case of The Black Angels, a band that is likely to have a polarizing effect on listeners. So I give you “Science Killer.” It’s perfectly representative of this band, and this album.

Some will claim that this is music best listened to under the influence of mind-altering substances. Frankly, given the shocking colors and design of the day-glo cover, and the music within, it could be said that the band is not discouraging that idea. I am not an advocate (or critic) of such things, but I will agree to the extent that in my opinion, this is music best given to certain circumstances. For instance, I can’t imagine cruising down a Jersey shore road in a convertible with the top down in the middle of a summer day blasting Directions To See A Ghost (Light in the Attic). It just doesn’t work. On the other hand, if you put me on that same road deep in the heart of a Jersey winter night, this works just fine.

Drenched in reverb. Vocals buried deep within the cacophony. Guitars with tremelo set to stun. If that kind of thing appeals to you, grab this. Me? I kind of like it.

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is the New Music Editor for Popdose and a freelance writer. Ken is far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it.

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