Dave McGovern
staff writer
May 25, 2006
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Axis of Evol Axis of Evol
March 7, 2006
Jagjaguwar
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Rock Music Reviews
Pink Mountaintops
Axis of Evol

I love word play. Typically the use of familiar phrases with a new and often humorous twist tickles my fancy and fills my mouth with grins. Axis is one of my favorite words. The love of the word is mostly based off of the Dirty Projectors lyric: “I don’t trust the axis or the allies.”

Despite my affection, Axis of Evol is just not my type of word play: any reference to politics, especially in music, is usually a major turn off. Perhaps I am giving Stephen McBean a bit too much credit or perhaps I am not giving him enough.

In either case Pink Mountain’s sophomore album does indeed tickle the fancy, but beyond the initial feel good feeling the album leaves the listener wanting. The songs are sonically enjoyable, but mainly they drag on. Overall the songs are just a bit too static too be recognized as fully realized.

The album starts out with the sparse folk spiritual “Comas”. The song sounds like it could have come from the guitar of Robert Johnson. “oh I’m not headed down the highway to Hell / Lord you’ve been flailing all around with yourself”. The religion and confrontation of God (and Satan) seen in these lyrics are seen throughout the album making Axis of Evol a true example of the American songwriting tradition.

The next track, “Cold Criminals”, is one of the best off the album. This machine of a song is fueled by metronome tribal beats and casual clean electric guitar. A single tone reminds you that your heart is indeed still beating as the bass line discretely rolls along.

“New Drug Queens” is next. Paired with "Cold Criminals" these two songs form a one two punch you will not survive. “New Drug Queens” has overdriven guitar and vocals with a more distorted and even more driving/pounding sound. The yelled lyrics of “get back! Get back!” and “tell your momma gonna stay out late tonight / it’s alright” will have anyone getting back and getting down to this straight up short and sweet rock song.

Unfortunately there is a disturbing trend which becomes evident by the end of “New Drug Queens”: every song is driving and plodding regardless of the tempo. Many of the songs have repeated single notes from either a synth or guitar. The drum beat, while sometimes acoustic and sometimes electric, is near identical on every song. All the tracks have a different flavor. For instance “Slaves” has a Black Rebel Motor Cycle / Brian Jonestown Massacre drone feel, “Plastic Man, You’re the Devil” has a Dylan-esque vibe while “Lord Let Us Shine” has a janky more danceable Spiritualized sound.

The appeal of “Cold Criminals” and “New Drug Queens” is exactly what turns the listener off throughout the remainder of Axis of Evol (especially the excessively long and slow closing track “How We Can Get Free”). Don’t get me wrong, McBean can write a mean song, but he wrote essentially the same song seven times at varying lengths. Axis of Evol is an enjoyable album that relies too much on one trick. Look for a real showing from Pink Mountaintops on their next offering.

Release date: March 7, 2006
Label: Jagjaguwar
Rating: 6.0 / 10

[RMR]