I saw a photograph lying in the street
Picture of you
Oh and how times change
Though it has been five years since we’ve heard anything from Pink Mountaintops, frontman Steve McBean has remained incredibly busy. Moving from his homebase in Vancouver to Los Angeles didn’t stop him from releasing Wilderness Heart with Black Mountain in 2010, retooling Black Mountain songs for the Year Zero soundtrack in 2012, or forming Grim Tower and putting out Anarchic Breezes under that moniker last year. Always a musician who has shuffled from project to project with a surprisingly clear vision for each (despite the generally stoney vibes that tie them all together) McBean tapped producer Joe Cardamone in releasing the band’s sixth studio album, Get Back.
With any of his endeavors, McBean’s never focused on experimenting with new instruments, electronic beats or fancy vocal effects, and Get Back is no different. With this record, he set out once again to create a pure, plain and simple rock’n’roll document, and he accomplishes exactly that; there are no frills, no underlying agendas or messages, no subtleties. Get Back sets a scene, creates a mood and proves that you don’t have to look to the future to create something new and interesting. To the contrary, McBean riffs on the past and creates an album that captures the truest essences of a rock’n’roll lifestyle, which according to him consist of “Alleys, curbs, walls, and cigarette stained gig flyers. An island on the Pacific coast. Fake British towns. Slayer posters. The beauty of youth. It’s about listening to ‘Driver’s Seat‘ and ‘Guns of Brixton‘ and hotboxing The Duster.”
Get Back may be only ten tracks long, lasting for just under 40 minutes, but for those 40 minutes it’s easy to be transported back to the irresponsibility of youth. It evokes those times when I thought it was cool to litter floors with cigarette butts, those times I had to wear sunglasses inside because I was too hungover for fluorescent lighting, those times getting drunk in the woods behind the powerlines because I was too young to go to bars and had nowhere else to go. With hook-driven guitar riffs, lyrics that sometimes veer into the nonsensical, and McBean’s dramatic yet sincere vocals, Get Back perfectly encapsulates the angst, spontaneity, romance and irresponsibility of youth.
It is no accident that Get Back brings one back to their reckless teenage years. The whole album is a nostalgia trip, and McBean makes this no secret. From “The Second Summer of Love,” which, according to McBean, was in 1987, to the distorted doo-wop of “Sixteen,” where McBean laments “and all we want tonight is to fall in love beneath the midnight sky” McBean clearly looked back to his teenage years, dredging up all of the drama and recklessness that comes along with it. This thematic approach works well, as no two things go together better than teenage kicks and rock’n’roll. When Joe Cardamone told McBean to “Sing it like you would’ve sung it when you were 21,” I doubt that he expected him to do so with such sincerity.
But it’s not just nostalgia that drives Get Back; the record is also a sentimental exploration of hedonistic West Coast urges and how they play out in McBean’s newest home. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the record’s lead single, “North Hollywood Microwaves,” which features Giant Drag frontwoman and Cali native Annie Hardy. Her adenoidal, X-rated ramblings over bass-driven beats and dystopic melodies give it a hyper, free-wheeling zaniness, and set it apart from the rest of the LP’s more straightforward brand of stoner rock. The album opens with driving drums, urgent guitar and grungy vocals on “Ambulance City” and moves through a veritable buffet of dirty, psych jams before ending, appropriately, with “The Last Dance.” Rather than striving to separate himself from the rock influences of the past, McBean celebrates and elaborates on them at every turn.
Get Back brings out the teenage miscreant in all of us. Make sure to pick it up when it comes out on 4/29 via Jagjaguwar records.