Black Mountain - In the Future

Thursday, 31 January 2008, 16:11 | Category : Uncategorized
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Is prog rock necessarily a bad thing? The term is definitely used in the pejorative sense by a lot of music writers, as in ‘that’s a bit prog’ = ‘not good’. I had a bit of a discussion on this theme with a couple of friends last week, sparked off by the new Black Mountain album In the Future. One called it ‘Black Sabbath meets Jethro Tull’. The other rose to the defence of prog as mainly good with a few bad exceptions, and the foundation of art rock. So art rock or old fart rock? Who’s to decide?

Anyway, back to Black Mountain. My own knowledge of prog rock is somewhat limited, but I could see even before I listened to the album that there might be a bit of proggy goings-on inside. Just look at that cover! It’s about as prog as they come. But what of the music? I think it’s probably wise to ditch notions of banks of keyboards, Rick Wakeman, capes and 10 minute noodling solos. But then again, don’t totally dispel the keyboard thought entirely, because that’s one main factor that seems to mark out the difference between In the Future and Black Mountain’s self-titled debut from 2005. Sure, there are long songs on the new album, but Black Mountain wasn’t exactly full of three minute pop songs either. What’s different is the more epic feel of the new songs, which sometimes come in movements – quiet part, loud part, then fade off again etc. etc. And that keyboard sound, much more prominent than before, sometimes even daring to cross into what might be called (gasp) ‘noodling’. Hmmmm…

I’ve just listened to both albums right though, back to back, first one first. And sure enough, the debut has more urgency, more of a dirty rock ‘n’ roll feel. The new one still has the riffs the size of a house – Stormy High certainly starts off the record on old territory – but there’s definitely a more polished feel and it all seems a bit more controlled. I keep wanting them to rock out a bit more. All of this might seem like I’m down on In the Future, but I’m really not. I actually quite like it. It’s not as amazing as I’d hoped for, but still pretty good. And it’s not all prog and riffs either – the gloriously languid, almost country Stay Free is probably my favourite track. I’ve just been reminding myself that In the Future is a slightly different beast to the first LP. Ironically it’s on their longest song – the 16 minute long Bright Lights – where Black Mountain probably rock out the most. Maybe prog is a good thing after all.

Download: Black Mountain – Stormy High
Downlaod: Black Mountain – Stay Free

Buy In the Future from Rough Trade* or download from emusic.

*I thought that there might be a national run on Black Mountain last Monday when I went into Rough Trade East on the day of release and they had sold out! Though that was more likely due to the amount stock they had received and not In the Future catapulting into the top 10.

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