The Black Angels

Published on April 15th, 2018

The Black Angels love the Velvet Underground. I mean, who doesn’t? C’mon, they’re the Velvets. For a psych rock band there is no greater personification of druggy aesthetics and downtown cool. But the Black Angels are more than their influences. They play a killer live show, something that couldn’t be said with any consistency about the Velvets. The Black Angels have also lasted longer, time they’ve used to build an enviable reputation.

They were the band behind legendary psych rocker Roky Erickson, of 13th Floor Elevators fame, in his return to performing beginning in 2008 after years subsumed by mental illness. The Austin, Texas-based Angels have shared bills with Silver Apples, Ravonettes, Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age and a plethora of other bands your stoner friends totally dig.

Their newest, “Death Song,” is intricate, layered, psychedelic rock that relies less on fuzz and feedback, and more on tone. Where some psych bands drown their work in squall, the Black Angels seek precision. The sound is more moody “Conan The Barbarian” scoring and less ’60s drop-out music. It’s a welcome change to hear a band of this ilk de-emphasize drone and lean into the writing — as if an inner voice had spoken up: “Yeah, we get it: You like psych.” Black Angels have responded with an almost temperate album that might expand the parameters of what psych can be.

“One of the things we try to think about with our music is what the 13th Floor Elevators said [on ‘Roller Coaster’], ‘Open up your mind and let everything come through,’ ” Angels guitarist Christian Bland told Observer in 2017. “Be open and willing to hear people out … and if you find out they don’t agree with you, stand your ground.”

They’re joined by Atlanta’s own bad boys of psych, Black Lips, they of the early oughts incursions into Churchill’s Pub in Miami that brandished fire, nudity and bodily fluids in varying amounts. Sorry if you missed; it really was good times. I would almost hazard that the Velvet Underground never had that much fun, ’cause heroin seems like the antithesis of rock ’n’ roll.

The Black Angels and Black Lips perform April 17 at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, ~ Tim Moffatt

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