Sunday, 26 May 2013

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control (album review)

Uncle Acid (the Jim Jones of Rock?) has returned, Deadbeats in tow.  It's two years later, the skies are a little more smog choked, the streets are a little more crowded and there are just that many more potential Acid Coven cult members.  If word about this band ever got out into the mainstream, it could be a revolution.  What's frightening is that it could very well happen with this album.

The album opens with "Mt. Abraxas" and its interpreted likeness graces the album cover.  Abraxas, of course, is a Gnostic word of various attribution, but most commonly interpreted as their word for God (as per Carl Jung).  The song tells the story of the people who climb the mountain, one after the other, while sadly "they don't know, there's nothing up there".  Meanwhile, Uncle Acid plays with our Sabbath fanaticism by directly quoting the opening riff of "After Forever" (without disrupting the flow of the song!), which as we know was Sabbath's unabashedly Christian apologia from 'Master of Reality' in which Ozzy implored that "God is the only way to love".  It's incredibly ironic that currently Black Sabbath themselves are set to release their first new album in a coon's age with a lead single called "God Is Dead?", which deals with a similar theme that is not nearly as well thought out or well handled as Uncle Acid's opening track.  The word Abraxas, again has more than one interpreted meaning, but I'm going to go with the assumption that Uncle Acid here is referring to God, or some light of spiritual knowledge, understanding or comfort.  This is a brilliant way to start the album and is Uncle Acid's way of inviting the listener into his cult, for first he who seeks a higher truth must first acknowledge none higher than ye olde Uncle Acid.  It's been a long, long time since I felt this way about any single song, or that is to say, thought so deeply about any single song.  It's a highlight of an already bright discography and the seminal moment of the album from which all ideas flow like evils from Pandora's box.

There's a palpable Beatles influence here.  I should say, more of a palpable Beatles influence on this album, expanding on the hints of the mustachioed quartet's influence on Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats previous album, 'Blood Lust'.  Specifically, this Beatlesque feeling comes across most clearly in the form of "Death Valley Blues" and "Valley of the Dolls", which play on the Liverpudlians Indian excursion, during which they famously lived for a month with The Beach Boys, Donovan and Prudence Farrow among others in a Transcendental Meditation camp in the remote foothills of Rishikesh, India.  Another brilliant touch, playing on the fabs' foray into 'religious awakening', which may or may not have been a conscious decision when composing the album.  It may have been a stray mood, thought or feeling floating around when thinking about the themes on this album.  If nothing else 'Mind Control' is a bucket of cold water in the face of 'seekers', the theme being that the titular subject of the album being the end result of religious belief, practice and the following of religious leaders.

But if you think it's all an intellectual exercise without any of the visceral punch that catapulted the band's earlier efforts, then fear not.  'Mind Control' has hooks on chains, beginning with "Mt. Abraxas" and following through with "Poison Apple" the lead off single and goes from there.  When I think about what makes a great and memorable chorus, I think about, when I read the song title does the chorus come washing in to my mind?  "13 Candles" from 'Blood Lust' does this in a big way, as does "Death's Door" and "I'll Cut You Down".  "Mind Crawler", "Follow the Leader" and "Valley of the Dolls" have this in spades as well.  5 out of 9 songs with this hookiness factor is phenomenal.

I was expecting to be let down with this album.  I really was.  I'm a cynic when it comes to music, I'll admit it.  We've all been let down so many times in the past with favored artists not reaching the pedestal our ears have put them on.  It's nobody's fault but our own ... okay, okay, no more tarnishing you with my same dirty brush, it's nobody's fault but mine.  I certainly won't be one to blame the artist, it's human nature to be left behind by the ever-changing wiles of the artist or for the artist to choke under pressure.  After all, this is their label debut (on Rise Above Records no less).  When nobody's watching it's relatively easy to stay loose and do one's best, but once the attention turns one's way, it's understandable to fold under pressure.  'Blood Lust' is such a fantastic record, one of my favorites, that there was no way Uncle Acid would be able to reach those same heights, were they?  That's just not the way things work, right?

Well it is now.  The truth is, in a lot of ways that count, 'Mind Control' is a better overall record than 'Blood Lust'.  Not only is it strong musically, but it's well thought out and executed.  In fact, I'm not sure I've heard a record that was more well planned and executed.  Not for a long time anyway.  While many concept albums play out like great films or novels, 'Mind Control' is like a master's thesis.  And don't get too uptight if your nerdy younger sister starts talking about Uncle Acid at the dinner table, it's his time now, he won't be your prized little secret for too much longer.

Highlights include: "Mt. Abraxas" and "Poison Apple"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Mt. Abraxas (7:09)
2). Mind Crawler (4:22)
3). Poison Apple (4:14)
4). Desert Ceremony (5:10)
5). Evil Love (4:08)
6). Death Valley Blues (4:59)
7). Follow the Leader (6:29)
8). Valley of the Dolls (7:11)
9). Devil's Work (6:56)
Total Run Time: 50:30

K.R. Starrs (Guitar, Vocals)
Dean Millar (Bass)
Thomas Mowforth (Drums)
Yotam Rubinger (Guitar, Backing Vocals)

From: Cambridge, England

Genre: Psychedelic, Doom, Rock

Reminds me of: The Beatles

Release Date: May 14, 2013

Better Reviews:
The Obelisk
Dr. Doom's Lair

Cvlt Nation interview

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats facebook
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats on Encyclopedia Metallum


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