In a recent piece for Time magazine titled America from The Road, political scribe Joe Klein latched onto budding public sentiment that America’s once implicit international dominance is fading quicker than a winning TAB ticket left to rot in your back pocket. One protagonist equated the US sentiment to Turkey’s own struggle to maintain empirical prosperity — “a prevailing sense of melancholy”.

You’re damn right, I’m about to compare a rousing, cultural sentiment with the ebbs and flows of a modern rock ‘n’ roll record, and here’s how:

On the surface Wilderness Heart, Black Mountain’s third record, is the Canadians’ most commercially affable work. The carefree, bliss rock featured on previous records In The Future and Black Mountain has been buffed and polished, the shoeshine-rag doused in an impulsive melancholy — just to make sure those Doc Martens (or let’s be civil here, Chuck Taylors) shine.

But lurking beneath the sheen alterna-pop and driving pace of tracks such as Buried By The Blues and Let Spirits Ride lay a warped, sarcastic tone; a brooding emulsion. The staccato phrasing in the main refrain of opener The Hair Song recalls the brooding pop fashioned by the alternative rulers of the mid to late ’90s. The kind Soundgarden perfected with Superunknown and laboured over on Down On The Upside.

First single, Old Fangs, sucks you in with a sleek call and response vocal between Stephen McBean and Amber Webber; the verses hum along as a korg plays an outrageous melody, straddling the fine line of accompaniment and dominance. While foremost songwriter McBean delivers suggestive lines such as “children having their fun with the blues” and “play those death-wish chords”, honing in on plausible and indulgent cheap shots would distract from the thrilling instrumentation and serene melodies found elsewhere.

The album’s torso, Radiant Hearts, Rollercoaster and The Way to Gone successfully nail every traditional song writing device from soaring pre-chorus to clear and efficient melody shifts. The record winds down with two reflective tracks — The Space In Your Mind and closer Sadie — both, thankfully, engaging in nostalgia without succumbing to wallowing depths.

Wilderness Heart is a deftly shaped record, riddled with hooks and catch cries you can either drink to or ruminate on, the choice is yours.

The details: Wilderness Heart is in the stores and the digital music shops now.

Peter Fray

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