Austin psyche revivalists The Black Angels have returned with their fourth LP, Indigo Meadow, in slightly amended form. The band are down to a four piece of Stephanie, Christian, Kyle and Alex and the record sleeve exhanges the geometric trip of their past records for a swirly Fillmore concert poster layout. Despite these tweaks in presentation, the core sound of The Angels persists; there’s plenty of fuzzed up guitar and bass, 12 string jangle, sci-fi keys, bass drum beats and Christian Bland’s nonchalant vocals and yeah, the year is still approximately 1966.
The Byrds, The Velvets and Nuggets-style hooligan rock are such noticeable influences on the band’s song-writing that, by this stage, it’s not worth dwelling on their genealogy. What is striking is how the band seem to be reprising themselves on Indigo Meadow. There’s something of the law of diminishing returns about this record – the need for the field to sit fallow for a while to regenerate. Holland, whilst being worthy of inclusion, sounds immediately familiar, while Evil Things is basically a grumpier Haunting at 1300 McKinley. Elsewhere Don’t Play With Guns comes off as glib and tossed off and The Day is a wafer thin proposition.
In the plus column, Love Me Forever is saturated in gooey keyboards absorbing the circular twang of the verse guitar riff, letting it seep out for a fuzzy run in the chorus behind Bland’s deadpan delivery. Broken Soldier revisits the Vietnamese backdrops of their debut album Passover; all stomping menace and thousand yard stares, “it’s hard to kill when you don’t know whose side your on.” Later on, there’s Syd Barrett style whimsy on I See Colors (Chromaesthesia) lead by Alex Maas’s rainbow organ and backwards tape effects and brooding menace on closer Black Isn’t Black. However, four songs isn’t a lot to be getting on with on a 13 track record.
At the moment The Black Angels feel a bit like a wrinkled balloon – there’s the nostalgia and good time recollections from the bright colour and initial usage but also a sigh as you watch it lose its vim, fall to the floor and collect bits of fluff; but you still don’t feel ready to pop it. There’s enough on Indigo Meadow to suggest there will be more to come from The Black Angels but they need to find some of their past vitality to avoid becoming mere re-enactors.
First published on Roomthirteen