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Mac Blackout Band - Mac Black Out (2014) review

Mac Blackout Band "Mac Black Out" (Pelican Pow Wow Records, 2014)

Chicago maestro Mac Blackout’s newest band, simply titled the Mac Blackout Band has just unleashed their debut full-length on the world in the form a self-titled LP for Pelican Pow Wow Records.  The 12” is limited to 300 hand numbered copies adorned with stunning black and white psychedelic cover art by Mr. Blackout himself.  It perfectly sets the frantic, glammish, garagey, psychedelic pace for the 12” before you even drop the needle on the wax.  Starting with “Psychic Attack”, the opening track lives up to its name in so many more ways than one, it’s literally just an all out blistering attack on the senses.  Frenzied guitar leads burst and explode out of the din of noise delivering sludge hammer attacks of dissonant and disorienting sonic delightfulness!  The mind altering lead lines and solos really show off the melodic garage rock and punk leanings which belay the glam and synth that serve as the building block for the sound on the second track, “Shadows”.  With lyrics about a man loosing his mind and physical, literal demons, Blackout truly manages to craft a song that sounds unhinged itself, somehow unsettled and uneasy in almost every sense.  Just wait, you’ll be watching the shapes out of the corners of your eyes metamorphasize in your peripheral vision while you stomp your feet and bang your head subconsciously the entire time!  Again, as the name would again imply, “Venus” is a trip into the stratosphere with a healthy smattering of 80’s synth madness and psychedelia to make the scenery that much more intense and luscious.  It also happens to be the first song on the album fronted by the female vocals of Alison McKenzie.  “Venus” is a melancholy song that slowly builds until it reaches a deafening crescendo of a roar, howling vocals wisped away like screams in the eye of a hurricane of sound.  If “Venus” makes one thing very clear it’s this, we’re not in Kansas anymore.  From this point it feels like anything could happen, madness and chaos perfectly blending together with a mysterious master plan as “Venus” ends before delivering a healthy dose of snarling guitar and dual vocals with “I’m In Love With You”.  How the Mac Blackout Band so perfectly summons the feel and vogue of the 80’s glam culture with out evoking any of the crippling hindrances or trappings that can come with the genre, is beyond me.  “Heartbreaker” drives that point home, though, refusing to let the listener forget that they’re listening to a band which includes a man who spent years in a face-melting punk band that whole heartedly lived up to their names, The Functional Blackouts, while also allowing you to hear everything that he’s managed to pick up in the last twelve plus years as a musician along the way.  He effectively blurs the lines of so many genres it’s hard to get into really here, but the Mac Blackout Band has certainly not lost the intensity of The Functional Blackouts, nor has it betrayed the altogether different sounds of Mickey or even Mac Blackouts’ own prolific solo output.  “Heartbreaker” fades into oblivion after a fit of spasmodic distorted guitar solos which bleed into “Black Knight”, a song which was obviously chosen as a single from the album for a reason.  Opening the second side of the album with ease, “Black Knight” effectively ensures that anyone who’s made it thus far is going to be nothing but entranced by what’s to follow…  The farther into the middle of the album you head, the tighter the writing gets, the more precise the guitars, the more pointed the distortion and aggression.  It’s a perfectly planned and executed attack on the senses, and one that could have only been created by such a well versed creator as Mac Blackout.  Lurching into “Life Is Hard” the aggression and heaviness is still there, but the tempo’s taken a slight step back to really showcase the beauty of McKenzie’s key work.  While the guitar barks and snaps, fueled by an endless supply of grit and distortion, the keys chime in, delivering a haunting beautiful melody that underlies the brutality of the music it’s surrounded by.  “Life Is Hard” is like a disfigured china doll, both haunting and arresting, and it may be my favorite track on the album, managing to spotlight nearly every aspect of the Mac Blackout Band simultaneously without becoming muddied or confusing in the slightest.  The next track, “Soul Shattered” is the tale of a man who’s lost everything, the lyrics and music again reinforcing the haunting, almost spectral aesthetic of the album, giving it a ghostly aura that burns bright with the otherworldly life-force of the Mac Blackout Band’s music.  The keyboards on “Soul Shattered” almost sound like a mechanical choir at times, crying out in disenfranchised horror, “nothing really matters, all your dreams are shattered, life was a test and you failed at success, so nothing really matters” cries Blackout, peppering the bleak landscape of keys and guitar with scorching vocals.  “Devil’s Night” again brings to the forefront Blackout’s tendencies toward punk, speed and aggression, pillaging the glam rock based ideas presented as a basis, before warping them with a twisted psychedelic genome, an additive that makes sure you never stop looking over your shoulder while you listen to the album!  The immediate clash of guitar and keys on the final track, “Madman’s Eye” is nothing short of epic sounding.  “Human rot and waste” is as good a way as any as summing up the feel of “Madman’s Eye”, it just sounds, well evil or something!  It’s like two gods, locked in mortal combat on the cliffs high above the clouds, kicking the shit out of each other like drunken Vikings in a mead hall!  The twisted guitar break that leads up to the abrupt ending of the album is as good as any other on the album, blistering woofers and exploding tweeters.  And as the last notes echo and fade from the speakers you’re instantly left wanting more...  With Mac Blackout’s pretty steady output of material, I doubt we’ll be waiting long, but don’t sleep on this album because it’s going to sell out and then you’re going to be left kicking yourself in the ass, and neither of us wants that, now do we?

Review made by Roman Rathert/2014
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