The Black Angels Commodore, Vancouver BC, May 14
Published May 15, 2013The Black Angels went down smooth. Guitarist Christian Bland came out wearing a shirt that had "FUZZ" written in huge letters, and that's precisely what they delivered. From the slow-burning opening number, they launched into the organ-driven "I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)" trip-tacular from their recent album Indigo Meadow, and there was no looking back. Though the five-piece live band changed up instrumentation for every track, their Nuggets-fuelled, razor-blade amped sludge was incessant and unrepentant.
The Austin outfit's visuals enhanced their heavy psychedelia like STP with LSD. At first, splotches of colour swirled about, but this gave way to cascading, kaleidoscopic lines and solid colours mingling and changing with each song, punctuated by discombobulating strobes. When they hit the trance-inducing title track, "Indigo Meadow," their visuals used a live feed of the band, a camera directed at the screen on which it projected itself. This had the band echoing into infinity behind them, seemingly manifesting the immensity of the lysergic haze they were creating.
Although, as mesmerizing as their effective, lo-fi visuals were, that didn't stop one stoner from climbing onstage about ten minutes in and attempting a stage dive onto the unsuspecting heads of his fellow audience members, a mistake he repeated midway through their set. This music is half-time head-nodding stuff, not mosh-y garage punk, so all he succeeded in doing was annoying the bouncers and flattening a few hairstyles on his way down.
That said, there were many moments to get excited about. "You're Mine" was particularly upbeat, propelled by more of a vintage pop sound, while the protest song "Broken Soldier" carried a lot of weight, considering our contemporary Orwellian state of perpetual terrorist fear that keeps getting conservatives elected. Appropriately, singer Alex Maas gave credit for the latter track to the U.S. government. Though their aesthetic is pulls from influences decades old, indebted to the spirit of revolt and experimentation championed by the likes of Jefferson Airplane and the Velvet Underground, the Black Angels ooze a relevant urgency and awareness.