The Black Angels

The best rock and roll stirs up a maelstrom, a surging wall of sound you can almost reach out and touch. It’s not about craft, chords, equipment, or even how many tickets or albums you sell. It’s underlying motion, propulsion; it’s finding the sweet spot and giving yourself over. Don’t believe it? Just ask the BLACK ANGELS , an Austin ensemble that’s unleashed one of the most ferocious psychedelic-rock oeuvres this side of the Velvet Underground. If you haven’t heard their full-length debut, PASSOVER (Light in the Attic), you’re missing one of the year’s undeniable bone-jarring pleasures. The Angels don’t play a tripped-out psychedelia—there’s nothing cute going on here—but an echo-laden, straightforward, mid-tempo churn of guitar rock. It’s difficult to make this kind of music without cozying up to cliché, but the Angels show no fear. “The Prodigal Sun” might sound a bit like Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom,” but neither they nor anyone else cares. The atmospheric, apocalyptic “The First Vietnamese War” alone, with helicopter blades swishing triplets against the opening power chords, makes the album a keeper, but it’s fare like the T. Rex—inspired “Black Grease” and the majestic “Call to Arms” that pushes this thrill ride into overtime.

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