As if to answer criticisms that the band is better at fetishizing the past than writing songs for the present, The Black Angels’ third LP, Phosphene Dream, comes to a howling climax with the twitchy rave-up “Telephone.” Even with a brief diversion into hootenanny harmonizing, the song lasts just long enough—two minutes of chiming Rickenbackers, piercing Farfisa, and snaking rhythms halted by a pained, heavily manipulated scream. For once, the band that brought reverb back into vogue lets a melody shine through its self-defined “Native American drone ’n’ roll.”
If only the Angels would dial that number more often. While Phosphene Dream is certainly their most song-oriented release to date, it still too often emphasizes mood and texture over structure and tune. The last two concerns have never been the band’s bag, but it’s refreshing to hear tracks like “Telephone” or “Sunday Afternoon”—with its distant “hey hey hey”s and 13th Floor Elevators-indebted electric-jug gurgles—rubbing up against the skeptic’s raga of “True Believers.” The band’s previous work built a cushy little crash-pad in which to wallow in gauzy highs and deep, disassociated lows, so it’s thrilling to hear it bust out with the Paranoid-era Black Sabbath ballast that opens “River Of Blood.” Then again, it’s twice as frustrating when the track doubles back and settles into a hypnotic groove.