Hairy Hippies Rule

Stephen McBean makes love, war, and Mountaintops

It doesn't take a club full of forest nymphs in potato sacks to understand that the earth-rocking neo-hippie has gained prominence in the modern music world. The loose rhythms and languid melodies of indie-minded classic rock aficionados echo both the lingo and the aesthetics of their bell-bottomed forebears.

Vancouver's Stephen McBean is a prolific nucleus of such stoned grooves. Everything from his Grizzly Adams facial hair to his cottonmouth delivery shows a commitment to sounds in séance with the Age of Aquarius — although his output is more Easy Rider outlaw than precious folk fairy. As the brain behind the twin peaks of Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain, McBean offers hearty rock with dirt under its nails and lysergic daydreams heavy in its consciousness. Of the two groups, Black Mountain is the Led Zeppelin thunder/Neil Young lightning storming against formulaic hit paraders (although, oddly enough, the band opened for Coldplay last summer). And while Black Mountain is the louder outfit, it's the foreplay for the libidinous Pink Mountaintops, who, on their 2004 eponymous debut, produced an album's worth of raw, jangling rock come-ons (“I Fuck Mountains,” “Sweet 69”). On his second romp with the fleshier-hued moniker, McBean rotates on an Axis of Evol. The new Pink Mountaintops disc is even more seductive than its predecessor, filling out the austere Velvet Underground aesthetic by taking a cue from Spiritualized's hypnotic space drones and heavy-lidded delivery. Here McBean is slier about his lyrical subjects, his thoughts mired in narcotics and war weaponry, double-entendres for the personal and political. The booty at the end of these battles comes through on acoustic tracks like “Comas,” which offers affection draped in a dreamy haze. Between the summits of Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops, McBean spans a continuum connecting “maximal rock” and neo-psychedelic confections, to artful — and addictive — effect.

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