Take Me Where the Renegade Surfers Go

Black Mountain – taken from ventvox.com

With “Mary Lou,” canadian rock group Black Mountain takes its pseudo-psychedelic sound – which in the past has had the tendency to sound like a plethora of fossilized classic rock bands – to the next level. The song comes from the band’s forthcoming release (available April 3rd), which is a soundtrack composed of old and new songs for the so-called “apocalyptic” surf film Year Zero. Since the song was written specifically for a film, there is a noticeable shift in the group’s approach to songwriting. The vintage sound of the chunky opening bass riff, which is later mimicked by an even chunkier, distorted guitar is typical Black Mountain; but the band injects their fossil rock sound with a shot of adrenaline by working in a quicker tempo than usual, while simplifying the song structure to a repetitive, catchy drone that does not put any emphasis on lyrics. However, lyrics are of no importance to this song – this is cruising music. The simple phrase “Mary Lou, Mary Lou/Whatchu gonna do?” is adequate because the emphasis relies solely on the charging electric vibe of the music, which makes it appealing to a crowd of “renegade surfers” and anyone who wants to rock hard. The song makes the listener feel as if he or she is catching a wave, taking it for a speedy ride, crashing down and drowning under water, and then slowly washing up to shore.

Listen to “Mary Lou” here:

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6 comments
  1. This post made me wonder: what is it with surfers and distorted guitars? I’m not very familiar with the genre, but the only other band I know of with a similar instrumental distortion style, Best Coast, is also loved by many a surfers (and Drew Barrymore).

    About your reference to “fossil rock,” maybe I’m making myself out to sound like a “n00b,” but I’ve never actually heard the term before. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people reference really obscure music genres that only the people who actually make that type of music is familiar with. This isn’t really a blow to your post, just a personal preference and friendly suggestion, but maybe include references to similar bands of that obscure genre when mentioning them? I always find it helpful when I have a basis for comparison.

    I enjoyed reading your post regardless.

  2. Very concise. The break down and musical descriptions are clear. I think it would be worthwhile to address the fact that this song could come off as repetitive. You do address it somewhat by saying that the approach to songwriting is different because it’s for a movie, but I think if you mentioned it even more concretely it would be helpful. Nice post.

  3. Very much liked this, particularly the wave reference at the end. As Simon said, the repetition could be mentioned, but I also understand the omission of the subject due to the fact that repetition as such is very common in the psych-rock genre. All in all, nice post.

  4. tygoff said:

    “The song makes the listener feel as if he or she is catching a wave, taking it for a speedy ride, crashing down and drowning under water, and then slowly washing up to shore.”

    This song makes me want to crash down, drown under water, and never wash to the shore if that’s what I have to hear when I get there. Overall, I think you state your point of view relatively well in this post. It seems as if you are already familiar with the band and its genre, so if you elaborated a bit more on that for the people that don’t know, your post would have been much stronger.

  5. This review was clearly thought out. You did a great job of introducing the band and what they’re about in the opening sentences and it flows well into the actual song review. I think it really helps to know that the band wrote this song specifically for a movie because that helps to explain why the song sounds like it should be in the background of something more captivating. I agree with Ty and Geenah about elaborating and explaining the genre in more detail. This is an elaborate and interesting review and I could definitely imagine reading this in a magazine.

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