I remember the first time that I heard Television with “Marquee Moon” – I was absolutely stunned how such a seemingly simple song could go on for a very long time without getting boring and instead creating a nearly hypnotic atmosphere that was unusual for the punk-movement but much welcome. In a way, the opener on “Get Back” – a traveling hymn for the 70s Rock-fan called “Ambulance City” – reminded me of that or at least the beginning of that song did before it balanced between road trip guitar-monster spiced with punk-vocals that somehow managed to sound like a bastardized Fatboy Slim-song.
To be clear, the Pink Mountaintops are Punkrock but mix genres because that’s how those Canadian sound-collectives float their boats (sic)! In the so-called Black Mountain-collective, bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Black Angels and the Pink Mountaintops create music that has been born in teenage bedrooms full of The Doors-posters and early New York-punkbands on the record player. The list of the past members looks like every single citizen of Vancouver at some point played in this band that was formed in 2003. The head of the band, though, is Stephen McBean whose name also sounds as if he could have been a 70s cop-show detective with mad polyester suits and a ‘stache to die for.
Naturally, they are signed with Jagjaguwar because everything shiny, fuzzy, loud and dirty is settled in this label of wonders.
“Get Back” is a weird and very charming beast. Some of the songwriting reminds of the 70s, where songs like “Through all the Worry” could be sung around a fireplace at the beach (with people wearing beads and feathers in their hair) or you could dance on a field of flowers to “Sell your soul”. However, the way the songs are being played puts them right into the late 70s punk-, early 90s alternative-scene which is something that works very well (if we remember, 90s bands like Blind Melon and Supergrass reveled in the 70s as well, so it’s a great fit).
For a band that sounds so anachronistic and modern at the same time, it might be fitting that their homepage still features a link to Myspace (I lol’d a little at that) but that’s mainly because there are entries from 2009 on the first page, so I guess it’s been a little bit dusty there. No wonder, it’s been 5 years since the last album and fans probably already grew beards of grief while they waited for something new (female fans knitted probably those weird wool-beards to wear).
According to the much more current Jagjaguwar band-page, the album was inspired by cigarette-stained flyers (which I – weirdly – totally get), fake British towns and songs like “Driver’s Seat” (which I love). Recorded in Los Angeles, the album actually sounds quite sunny and like a lot of fun. As Stephen was hanging out in LA and reading books by British Zen-philosophers, he invited some of his thousand Pink Mountaintop-friends over and they all added one bit or the other to his songs. As probably the greatest cameo, Annie Hardy (Queen-bee for the band Giant Drag) does an incredibly fascinating and Velvet Underground-y rap on “Northern Hollywood Microwaves” (somehow I have to think of “30 Rock” now) and is surrounded by an unruly jazz-background.
The song is followed by a very straight-forward punksong called “Sixteen” that suddenly has a Bruce Springsteen-saxophone-solo in there and I guess that’s the big secret of this band and this album: At its heart, it is a punk-album at its finest and purest. But the band “Canadians” it (I just invented that), meaning that they put their own spin on it, changed it up, added some David Bowie (“New Teenage Mutilation”), some Canned Heat, some Psychedelic Furs (“Shakedown”) and all in all created a colourful and quite beautiful album that is overwhelming in the most wonderful way.
Oh, and the last song (accordingly titled “The Last Dance”) is everything a last song should be on an album. It is an overly long rock-hymn that fades out in a long, piano-streaked outro that just rolls out forever, like “Take a look at the wild side” or “Marquee Moon”. It’s a big beautiful wave of rock’n’roll and you never want it to end.