The Black Angels w/ Call Me Lightning @ Mad Planet
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A battalion of atavistic bands are raising the specter of psychedelic music, painting it black with plural nouns evocative of the netherworld. Saturday night's show at Mad Planet billed two such chthonic acts as bookends with a curious bolt of Call Me Lightning in the center.
Promoting their fifth album, Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, The Warlocksperformed with a skeleton crew half the size of their original lineup. Despite attenuated personnel and an unfortunate opening slot on a three’s-a-crowd bill, The Warlocks filled the space with brooding, elegiac new material.
A thundering—if not jarringly raucous—set by Call Me Lightning provided a departure from the dark side, with Nathan Lilley headbanging his way through his best send-up of A Quick One-era Roger Daltrey.
Picking up where The Warlocks left off, The Black Angels opened with "Manipulation," from Passover, the band's 2006 full-length debut,with lead vocalist Alex Maas making way for guitarist Christian Bland's lucid monotone. Possessed by the timbre of John Cale, Blandled the Angels into a solid set combining the strongest material from both Passover and their recent sophomore effort, Directions to See a Ghost.
Resurrecting the taut marching rhythms so endemic to their debut, Stephanie Bailey pounded out a militia's cadence on “Mission District," a highlight from Directions that typifies the Angels' uncanny ability to revel in demoniac sultriness. For the remainder of the set, the band enlisted a pair of 16-millimeter projectors to superimpose found footage on the stage, some sequences rendered ominously sanguine with age.
The Black Angels concluded with two warmly-received tracks from Passover, the bluntly-penned, overtly political "Young Men Dead" and "Better Off Alone," an anthemic ode to independence.
Like Yorick's Skull, the magician's trick from which Directions to See a Ghost takes its name, The Black Angels inscribe the tropes of late ’60s psychedelia from the past onto the present, though their take is more in line with Blue Cheer and Hawkwind than the bloated noodle rock plaguing college airwaves for nearly two decades.
And while this ground's been marched countless times before, The Black Angels' swaggering rhythms manage to ignite below-the-belt-buckle sexuality without sacrificing their intent to blow the hinges off the doors of perception. Whether or not their official mantra “turn on, tune in, drone out,” is possible without either direct participation or controlled substances is subject to debate, but these fallen angels put on an incendiary spectacle.