If You're Not Paying Attention, You're Part of the Problem: The Black Angels Get Real
The unapologetically lo-fi, imperfect recordings; the discordant, impassioned political balladry punctuated by frustrated calls-to-action; the telltale, metallic sojourns of psychedelic rock: at first play, Indigo Meadow, the latest from The Black Angels, sounds like it could've been ripped from a bin of vinyl discarded from the shelves of the '60s.
Rife with desperate concern, anger and an un-ignorable need to do something about various blights on society brought on by the government, The Black Angels aren't simply a band that sounds like they're ripping themes and stylistic cues from bands that protested the Vietnam War and its aftermath in 4/4 time. They're taking advantage of these similarities and genre affiliations to prove that times may change and the war may have a different name, but these problems stay the same--and that a band should be singing about them all without a filter, be it 1973 or 2013.
"I think art has always been a reaction to society," says lead singer Alex Maas, calling in from the road. For The Black Angels, who hail from Austin, their Southern roots provide a particularly unique place from which to unpack issues like gun violence and the confrontation of conflict in the Middle East over the course of the record's 13 tracks. "I think with those societal pressures, our songs are more our reaction to what's happening, whether it's promoting the good of the nation or describing what the faults of it are. Living in Texas has a play in what we're doing but it isn't really a pressure for us to speak out directly, because outside Austin, things are really weird. If you grew up in the Bible Belt and you're surrounded by these scary laws ... it's kind of a scary thing, really. Thankfully, we're changing as a nation, we're moving forward and becoming more socially involved."
As the first single off Indigo Meadow is "Don't Play With Guns" and the subject matter pertains to the blunt, no-room-for-interpretation title, the tone set by The Black Angels is one of inspirational discontent, where stanzas are ripped from the headlines and each chorus reminds the listener that if you're not paying attention, you're part of the problem. "Broken Soldier" resonates especially on this frontline, as Maas passionately launches into a discussion on the terrifying, growing suicide rate amongst veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This isn't new ground for The Black Angels, as they've never been a band to shy away from tough talking points. It is a stronger platform for them, in that they feel as though they've gotten to a point where they can drop the pretense and be more upfront with listeners than ever before.