The Black Angels

Directions to See a Ghost (Light in the Attic)

We're well into the dawn of the drone by now. That sultry guitar hum introduced to the punks by the Velvet Underground and blown out to the shoegazers by Spacemen 3 and the Jesus and Mary Chain has, in more recent years, attracted followings for everyone from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to Black Mountain. Done right, all that dilated-pupil distortion and melodramatic jangle makes for seductive pop with a sinister lining. Done poorly, it's monotonous music. The Black Angels were stuck in the latter camp on their debut, Passover, and their second disc, Directions to See a Ghost, shows only momentary spikes in the flatlining.

Part of the problem is we've heard all this before. The same couple chords repeated ad nauseam, the avalanches of fuzz, the sleepy vocals – here they hold neither the danger nor the romance of their predecessors. Heavy guitars alone aren't enough to send listeners' brain cells into a centrifuge, especially when Black Angels don't sound like there's anything lurking below the surface of this Ghost except a desire to play it safe. A notable exception to the lukewarm fare is "18 Years," an intoxicating come-on that'll electrify the hair on your neck with lines like "She's got control of you, and you love it." It's the moment the Black Angels' subdued sound becomes sublime. Elsewhere, though, "Deer-Ree-Shee" and "Vikings" are examples of stoner rock for art school crowds. If only the Black Angels would make good on their claim to really "bomb you 'til Tuesday" instead of continuing to lay this state of monodrone.

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