Like most bands that I’m fanatical about I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard their music. In this particular case it was in the Richmond Airport in 2006 waiting on a flight. I had some kind of device that let me listen to XM Radio and The Black Angels came up in the playlist. The song was Sniper at the Gates of Heaven. The primal drum beats, and dark lyrics drew me in right away. I downloaded their debut record Passover, and played it front to back to front.
If I’m being honest, I will say that the droning, psychedelic style of the Black Angels is not my usual thing. However, there is something captivating about the ethereal combination of bass, drums and melodies that won’t allow me to simply disregard it as some weirdo band making weirdo music. When I first discovered them, I loved how different they were from other bands I was listening to. I still do. While this is the only vinyl record I own (for now), I have downloaded all of their other albums. There are only a few bands I can say that about.
Phosphene Dream is The Black Angels third record and easily one of my favorites. I would opine that there isn’t a skippable track on either side. If I had to level a complaint, a small one, it’s that when I picked up the record, I discovered one of my favorite songs, Melanie’s Melody is actually an iTunes bonus track and is notably absent on the LP. I’m glad I have it downloaded but it’s it’s definitely a shame. Fortunately there are plenty of other great tracks that make up for it. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I will.
The record opens with the hard driving drums of Bad Vibrations, grabbing attention right away. “Can you tell a wish from a spell/ a hug from a lie/ they both make you feel so gone.” This isn’t going to be your standard Top 40 light hearted pop record. And I’m not complaining. Side A closes with River of Blood, which begins loud and fast, but shifts gears in the first fifteen seconds setting a trend for the rest of the song, never really letting you settle into a groove. As you might expect the subject matter is grim, and tells a dark story. However, the musical storytelling keeps me from looking away.
“Rolling Fast down I35 / Supersonic Overdrive.” Welcome to Side B. Entrance Song is easily my favorite song from Phosphene Dream. I could listen to this track on repeat and not get bored. I might have already done that… while writing this paragraph. Just sayin. I looked up the video which features a guy on the run from a bunch of desert weirdos riding a British Customs Triumph Bonneville. It’s like they shot that video just for me. How many times was I on that bike riding to escape? Seriously, just stop. It’s the perfect driving, riding, running etc. song. It just doesn’t get old.
The final song, The Sniper brings Phosphene Dream to an end with these last words:
We decide what goes inside your head.