The Black Angels have always been the forgotten cousin of the psychedelic nouveau scene, relegated to a minor player in favour of the genre’ wider-known exponents. Their first album, Passover, was a genuinely acute study in psychedelica revival, although personally I felt it ventured too much into the realm of pastiche. Their name is taken from a Velvet Underground song, and the legendary New York avant-garde artists are a strident influence on everything The Black Angels do, even down to the high-contrast negative image of Nico the band use as their logo. Either they’re woefully ignorant, or they’re not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves.
Not much has changed for The Black Angels in the two years since their debut. Directions to See a Ghost looks and feels almost the same as 2006′ Passover. Once again drawing on minimalist psychedlica and dirge rock in the vein of modernists Black Mountain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (see a trend emerging here?) as well as early proponents of garage rock The 13th Floor Elevators, the music of The Black Angles is tribal and hypnotic, typically relying on only a handful of chords and a repetitive drum beat to drive home the point. The jangled chords of relaxed opener “You On The Run’ elects to sit on a four to the floor beat while the vocals of the unfortunately named Christian Bland modulate between the monotone nonchalance of Interpol’ Paul Blank and the barking intensity of Frank Blank.
It feels like an auspicious beginning, but as the record unfurls, The Black Angels’ musical shallowness begins to bore holes in their acid rainbow lining. Their lack of variety exposes the Texan quintet as a one-trick pony, There’ the occasional bright point, like the Maharishi vibe of “Deer-Ree-Shee’ with its sinuous sitar line, and pulling out individual songs is recommended, rather than listening to the album as a whole. But a track like “Doves’ finds The Black Angels disappearing up their own arse to a staccato soundtrack flooded with so much tremolo guitar effect I just had to skip it. By the time you reach the bloated sixteen-minute self-indulgent finale of “Snake In The Grass’, Directions to See a Ghost has become a rather limp monster. It’s an album that, much like their debut Passover, relies too much on influence while failing to deliver anything new to the musical table.