I got an email from someone the other day about a new band helmed by Richard Fearless, the sometime leader of Death In Vegas. Of Black Acid, they said, “Half of it sounds like a Japanese sixth form band doing Mary Chain covers. Half of it sounds like Bobby Gillespie telling you about records he likes while trying to play them. The first song is ten minutes of backwards noise.”
Incredibly, these all turn out to be good things. I can’t pretend I was ever much of a fan of Death In Vegas, finding Fearless’ theoretically rock’n’roll take on techno to be excruciatingly self-conscious (apart from their enjoyably motorik-heavy last album, “Satan’s Circus”, that is) and nowhere near as dangerous as he made out in interviews. There seemed to be a general pursuit of sleaze – or at least the vague signifiers of sleaze – over substance, and the substance – even when it featured Iggy Pop – still managed to sound oddly bland.
Black Acid, it’s fair to say, does not represent a brave escape from those tawdry preoccupations. Fearless now resides in New York (rather than just round the corner from me in Dalston), and has recruited a bunch of musicians from bands I’ve never heard of (NYMPH, Place To Bury Strangers, Dirty On Purpose) to help him live out a bunch of absurd gutter fantasies.
The titles are hilarious: “I Hate You”, “Donna Distortion”, “Glitter In The Gutter”, “Flatlining” and so on. At times, the band sound like they have spent four hours practising their sneers in the bathroom mirror, then managed to put their leather trousers on their heads.
And yet, and yet, there’s something quite exhilarating about it all – though unless I’m doing Fearless a disservice, I suspect I’m not taking it quite as seriously as he’d hoped. “Black Acid” begins, fantastically, with “Lucifer’s Disguise”, a great skree of noise that lasts somewhere over ten minutes, and is maybe the first time Fearless has sounded as radical and uncompromising as he’s always claimed. I’m reminded vaguely of something like Popul Vuh, though there’s a faint echo of Suicide’s panto menace there, too and, subliminally, a sense of the ritual doom of The Stooges’ “We Will Fall”.
Then track two barrels in, “I Hate You”, there’s some mention of Jesus, huge levels of distortion, rudimentary garage band dynamics, assiduously studied Mary Chain and Primal Scream records (especially the second album) littering the studio floor. And, against all the odds, a tremendously rousing bit of Rolling-Stones-in-a-dishwasher rock’n’roll.
Occasionally, some synths will drift through the mix, and there’s a suspicion that Fearless is just roughing up his old Death In Vegas schtick with a raw, dumb, street gang band. “F.U.R.” amps up the electronics and reverts to the Krautrock pulse, reminding me of something from, well, the Scream’s “Evil Heat”.
But the thing is, it all works. The balance between machines and scuzzy lo-fi is extremely clever, as if those DIV records were mere preparation for Black Acid. I’m reminded of how he was originally slated to produce an Oasis record, and how funny it would’ve been if he’d made Oasis sound like this. “Here She Comes”, for instance, is a spectacularly crude take on the Velvet Underground’s protean chug. God it’s preposterous. And also, fun.
The crowning glory is “Don’t Stop”, another ten minutes of sucked-in-cheek, satan-worshipping Popul Vuh ritual organ doodle, point-of-death muttering, dissolute strum-and-tambourine-jangle, supremely fried ghosts of the Scream’s “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” and “Higher Than The Sun”, “Loveless”-era My Bloody Valentine. And so on. Yesterday, I whinged on about my disappointments of 2008, My Morning Jacket and Spiritualized. Here, though, is one of the year’s most unexpected triumphs. Visit the dungeon of amusing iniquity that is “Official Black Acid”’s myspace, and find out for yourself. . .