Want to get to know rock ’n’ roll in the Biblical sense? Look no further than Pink Mountaintops’ latest record with Jagjaguwar, Get Back.
Stephen McBean probably didn’t intend to make “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Primer” in creating this album, but he unwittingly assembled a smattering of songs that takes on rock in its various folk, fuzz, and classic forms with a guitar at the heart of it all.
For the album’s inspiration, McBean cited “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 features McBean and a swirling cloud of rotating musicians such as J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr. and Witch), Rob Barbato (Darker My Love, The Fall, and Cass McCombs), Steve Kille (Dead Meadow), Annie Hardy (Giant Drag), Jon Wahl (Clawhammer), and Gregg Foreman (Cat Power and Delta 72).
Despite his years on the job, McBean and his swirling cloud have conjured a youthful rock album.
Starting off with a bang, album opener “Ambulance City” is like a Copland symphony—it sounds simple on the surface, but complicated arrangements and rhythms make it so. The track features aggressive, screaming lyrics and echoes, and a chugging guitar riff on top of a steady, full bass and guitar beat, all of which break and fragment. “Ambulance City,” though rougher around the edges, transitions seamlessly into “The Second Summer of Love,” a track with a fuzzy, ’80s feel that plugs along underneath a chorus of, “The second summer of love/The second summer of love.”
“Wheels” opens with a high-pitched guitar tremolo like a train crossing closing. Its string-bending, dissonant melodic line makes the track feel like the title song to a strange spaghetti Western. The lyrics ask, “Don’t you feel there’s a current in our blood?/Don’t you feel but there’s still no answers?/But there’s still no answers/But there still are answers.” It’s the most misanthropic track on the record.
Meanwhile, “Sixteen” is purposeful, energetic, and full of youthful indiscretion with lines like, “Sixteen was the sound of smashing glass just for kicks,” and “All we want to do tonight is to fall in love and meet the midnight sky.” It’s a pure, fast rock song with a saxophone solo tossed in for good measure.
“North Hollywood Microwaves” is either the most compelling or most unnecessary track on Get Back.
It’s a crass, stream of consciousness free-for-all between McBean’s playful saxophone line and Annie Hardy spitting a reprehensible rap about switchblades, crack, Rod Stewart, screwing, and an insatiable need for bear semen. As obscene as it is, and while “North Hollywood Microwaves” is not a pleasant song, it’s something that parents would wholly disapprove of, which is one of the most rock ’n’ roll things there is. The track’s biggest fault is that its shock value may just draw attention away from the rest of the record.
A trip through fuzz, post-rock, rock ’n’ roll, and psychedelic rock, “The Last Dance” is nothing short of incredible. Luckily, it pushes the eight-minute mark, so there’s plenty there to savor. From the utterance of, “Darlin’, save the last dance for me” onward, the song hooks the heart and ears with a building and simultaneously collapsing arrangement of drum fills, bass riffs, guitar solos, and pounding piano chords. It’s like every aspect of rock music was shoved together and then imploded.
Thematically and musically, Pink Mountaintops taps into the essence of rock ’n’ roll with Get Back. The record once again proves that rock is hard to define and often is whatever one wants it to be, at least as long as there’s a guitar, youthful spirit, and maybe a stage dive involved.
Pink Mountaintops – Get Back tracklist:
- “Ambulance City”
- “The Second Summer of Love”
- ”Through All the Worry”
- “Sell Your Soul”
- “North Hollywood Microwaves”
- “New Teenage Mutilation”
- “The Last Dance”