As rock slips further into the realm of the academic, its past becomes subject less to visceral renaissance and more to analysis via cool dispassion. It's hard to tell which side of the chalkboard Black Mountain is marked on; the Canadian group's eponymous debut is a test tube boiling over with references to such disparate influences as Lou Reed, Hawkwind and Royal Trux. Leader Stephen McBean sharpened his historiographical skill in Jerk With a Bomb, Black Mountain's sadly overlooked predecessor, and continued his backward-glancing songcraft in its folk-fried sister group, Pink Mountaintops. But it's Black Mountain's brittle melodicism that's finally getting noticed. Above churning drones and riffs as sultry as they are studied, McBean rasps like a dry Roger Waters, while Amber Webber's honeyed harmonies are slicker than Grace herself. Regardless of whether its music is pop genius or just a pop quiz, Black Mountain makes the grade.
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