Last week, I was putting together a playlist of post-’60s psychedelic songs from the likes of Apples in Stereo, Kelley Stoltz, Young Prisms, and the Lumerians. I wanted droning, distorted organ sounds, primitive drums and rattling percussion, guitars playing trebly minor-key figures, bluesy bends and fuzzed-out solos, wailing vocals, and everything soaked in reverb. But after I had dropped in “Bad Vibrations” by the Black Angels I stopped, realizing that all I needed to do to create my playlist was to put that band’s music on repeat.
The Black Angels emerged from Austin, Texas, in 2004 and took their place among the great neo-psychedelic bands of today. You know: Black Mountain, Black Lips, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (notice a theme?). They took their name from the Velvet Underground and much of their sound from fabled Texans the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and they have always been up front but not especially reverent about their influences. Their song titles often tweak ’60s classics: not only “Bad Vibrations” but “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven” (compare with Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn) and “Yesterday Always Knows” (think Beatles).
That kind of trick gets to the heart of what makes the Black Angels stand out: the band revels in the past but transcends it through being so good. If they don’t try very hard to bring their sound into the 21st Century, neither do they try too hard to look and sound like 1967. Last year’s full-length Phosphene Dream was the most cohesive and accessible set of songs they’ve put together so far, and it portends great and strange things.
BLACK ANGELS: Belly Up Tavern, Monday, May 16, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $15 advance; $17 door.