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April 20th, 2005 Dave Clifford | Music Stories
 

Black Mountain vs. the Blanket of Humility

Vancouver, B.C., group unabashedly flays the corpse of rock in the face of scores of offended indie rockers.

     
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Black Mountain
"The whole indie-rock world is oppressed by this obligatory blanket of humility and fake integrity," laments Black Mountain bassist Matt Camirand. "Bands are afraid to cut loose and wear their influences on their sleeve."

Not Black Mountain-a group that makes the pastiche act seem downright revolutionary. If you don't catch the less-than-subtle nods to artists like Black Sabbath, Velvet Underground, Can and the Rolling Stones in the Vancouver, B.C., quintet's infectious musical hodgepodge, then the point is further driven home in the lyrics of singer-songwriter Stephen McBean. Lines like, "We can't get no satisfaction/ 'cause everybody likes to claim things," and "We can't stand your modern music/ we feel afflicted," are delivered as more insouciance than invective on the band's self-titled Jagjaguwar debut album.

It seems that indie rock's unspoken code of honor requires bands always to sound like the musical vanguard has forced them into obtuse angularity and genre gene-splicing-something of an inverse version of the '70s prog-rock opulence that alternative bands sought to eradicate.

"Who cares if it sounds derivative?" Camirand says. "We're not trying to be cheeky. Our music came in reaction to a feeling that everyone needed to be different and new, fusing indie rock with country and metal or whatever. We're tired of trying to call a style your own."

The group is also known as the heart of the Black Mountain Army artist collective-which includes the offshoot "sex music" band Pink Mountaintops, sharing band members McBean, Camirand, vocalist Amber Webber and drummer Joshua Wells as well as including various filmmakers, artists and party people. "There's just a different vibe with Pink Mountaintops-more of a party atmosphere," says Camirand, "and Black Mountain wanted to include the work of our friends." Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops are born of the same bravado, but with different purposes. Whereas the latter is essentially a personal ode to McBean's girlfriend, the Black Mountain album focuses specifically on sociopolitical notions addressed with clever candor by McBean's re-appropriating of familiar lyrics in much the same way as it borrows unabashedly from the aforementioned grab bag of influences. While the band pounds away in a strange synthesis of the Velvet Underground's inchoate simplicity and Black Sabbath's swing-based heft, McBean takes his muses over the top, like Bill (Smog) Callahan fronting Iron Butterfly or Neil Young singing for early Pink Floyd.

Nonetheless, the true irony of it all is that in the group's determination to brashly wear its influences on its sleeve, it ultimately has created a sound of its own without pretenses of originality.


Black Mountain plays with Frog Eyes, World and DJ Yeti Wednesday, April 20, at Berbati's Pan, 10 SW 3rd Ave., 248-4579. 9:30 pm. $7 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.
 
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