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Black Mountain Moves Toward Pop

Friday July 30, at Urban Lounge


When Black Mountain bowed with the Druganaut EP and their eponymous debut CD about six years ago, fans proclaimed them—on the basis of those silver platters—hot shit.

In return, collectively and with various side projects (Pink Mountaintops, Lightning Dust, Jerk With A Bomb, etc.), Black Mountain’s members rewarded those fans with music sufficient to choke an iPod, or at least a Shuffle. They toured with Coldplay, landed a song on a summer blockbuster soundtrack, and appeared on a trajectory away from pet Canadian band to international rock megastardom.

Now, co-lead singer Amber Webber can say things like, “I just feel so happy at this point in our musical careers that we can make a living with our music,” and “I guess every musician that’s touring constantly and working really hard wants the most people as possible to hear [their] music.”

After another EP and LP (2008’s Bastards of Light and In the Future), it’s now time for Wilderness Heart, the “Black Mountain pop record” set for release Sept. 14.

Those words ought to make fans of Black Mountain’s stoner-psych-alt-country either shudder with revulsion or thrum with anticipation. Which is it for you? Does it exacerbate or enhance the reaction to hear the record involved two producers and two studios?

Depends on how much Black Mountain you’ve climbed and whether you’ve spelunked the sundry caves along the way.

By and large, the terrain is rocky and rustic, sometimes soaring and spacey. “Our band is so weird,” Webber says. “Everyone in the band likes different music.” She recites a litany that checks psychedelic rock, old punk and thrash metal, old soul and funk, country, space rock, stoner/ sludge/doom, and her current faves, Jay-Z and Fever Ray, a sort of electro-pop version of black metal composer Mortiis. The diversity, she figures, is why their “hybrid, weird music” tends to “click” with their audience. “That’s my theory, anyway.”

Alt-country band The Jayhawks and stoner rockers Queens of the Stone Age have famously shown there’s room for pop in what they do. Plus, there’s good and bad “pop,” the former powering Cheap Trick, late-period Nirvana, the White Stripes, Black Album-era Metallica. It’s about hooks and choruses and attention spans—knowing when to launch an epic jaunt and when to adhere to the four-minute rule (previously the three-minute rule).

Typically, a band that deserves its initial praise isn’t stupid. Download the free first track from Wilderness Heart, “Old Fangs,” and hear what constitutes Black Mountain “pop.” Pumping, distorto-organ hooks, power-chord chugging, two verses, a teaser chorus, a couple more quatrains, one more tickle, then a chorus where the alternating male and female vocals entwine and ascend before plunging toward a punchy last line. It clocks in at 4:01, yet makes every second count and is, therefore, epic.

Wilderness Heart is the realization of Black Mountain’s potential. Although according to Webber there are “straightforward rock songs” (produced by Dave Sardy, helmsman of records by everyone from Brit-pop Oasis to hyperactive indie rockers White Denim) and “weirder” stuff (shepherded by Randall Dunn, master of joints by droners like Boris), the record is thoroughly Black Mountain. It’s a towering, out-of-this-world, introspective record with sing-alongs mellow (like “Buried By the Blues” an apparent ode to Syd Barrett), alt-rocky (“The Way to Gone,” “The Hair Song”), fucking metal (“Let Spirits Ride”) and, like “Old Fangs,” stonerlicious.

That’s if you can dig the band for what they are and always will be: versatile, multiply inspired, and so, so good. Odds are you will, and someday you’ll see Black Mountain ruling the Maverik Center stage instead of the Urban Lounge. “It would be a pretty big thrill,” Webber admits. “[Main Mountain man] Steve [McBean] would love to wank a guitar solo out in that capacity. I think it’s kinda foolish to hope for those kinds of things, but you kinda gotta roll with it and whatever happens, happens.”

Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Friday, July 30, 9 p.m.