BY STEVE WILSON
Stephanie Bailey’s drums pound life into “Indigo Meadow,” the opening, title track on the Black Angels new release. Alternating between come on and kiss off, singer/organist Alex Maas addresses a lover (“you’ve been a problem since the moment I met you”). The song seduces to be sure, with its simple, but spiraling chorus.
Maas is an ever more convincing singer, with his weird, wonderful Ozzy sings with the Seeds dynamic, while the band never strays too far from its roots in International Artists-13th Floor Elevators-Texas Psychedelia. And on Indigo, the Black Angels have never sounded more confident, more assured. Their musician ship has flowered, their songwriting and arranging matured.
Indigo Meadow is an absorbing collection of songs. It may lack the dark focus of its predecessor Phosphene Dream, but the latter may have been a once in career record, to be honest.
Upon release Phosphene surprised. It took the droning, demonic sensibility of the band’s first two albums and, under the tutelage of producer Dave Sardy, introduced shaper tunes, arrangements and production, resulting in at once poppier and more powerful performances.
They still sounded like a band that took its name from one of the Velvet Underground’s most tonally ambiguous recordings, but they also introduced a Sixties pop sensibility that evoked the Monkees riding dune buggies with the Manson Family in the Mojave.
On Indigo, producer John Congleton is like pointillist painter, seeking and finding definition and detail. Where Sardy retained the thick slabs of distortion that always characterized the Black Angels sound, Congleton uses them as punctuation, crafting a more articulated, less concrete sound.
There’s a certain Doors sensibility that pervades Indigo. The Doors meet Black Sabbath “Evil Things,” a dark holdover from the Phosphene sensibility, with massive blasts of fuzzed out, distorted guitar. The Doors meet Dylan on “The Day,” a loping shuffle. The Doors meet Paul Revere and the Raiders on “Broken Soldier, “a smoldering portrait of an unknown, if you will, soldier – still living, but indeed broken (“You’ll never be the same when this is over”). The Doors meet Roky Erickson on “I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia), Maas swearing it makes “me invincible to pain,” as the band blasts away in a manner also a bit reminiscent of the Move’s creepy stoner plaint, “I Can Hear the Grass Grow.”
Okay, enough with this Doors thing. But not only do Maas and guitarist Christian Bland and Kyle Hunt twine lines like Ray and Robbie, there is a light/dark sensibility Indigo shares with Waiting for the Sun. Indigo is in a sense the spiritual heir to Dream in much the same way Sun was to Strange Days.
“Don’t Play with Guns” is bubblegum apocalypse, a successor to “Yellow Elevator #2” on Phosphene – sounds like the Sonics and the Troggs throwing a party. “Love Me Forever” has a Forever Changes bridge and a lovely 12-string part. “War on Holiday” and “Twisted Lights” both barrel home with all the subtlety of the Seeds. The catchiest (shiniest and happiest, too) number here is “You’re Mine,” even if the “How I Make You Scream” line has a little edge; the Kinks riff and Kasenetz-Katz verve combine dynamically.
Indigo Meadow is an assured, exciting piece of work. The Black Angels make all things Sixties (they even have their Country Joe and the Fish moments, swear) sound fresh and current. Guitarist Christian Bland’s design and Matt Cliff’s illustrations (very Milton Glaser meets Peter Max) represent and evoke the sounds perfectly. Indigo Meadow is a musical and visual banquet, rooted in another era, flowering, like a meadow, in this one.
DOWNLOAD: “Love Me Forever,” “The Day,” “Broken Soldier”