Rare or Unreleased 49: Poverty in My Heart for the Marketing Exec

What kind of beast are the Black Angels? They stand for many things easy to despise: They promulgate shameless time warp nostalgia—in their case, idealisation of a one-dimensional, cartoonish idea of the '60s. (Songs even reference the Vietnam War, ferchrissakes.) Like good children of postmodernism, they appropriate the art and image of more famous or street credible artists of the past in order to further their own career. (The band name was derived from a song by the Velvet Underground, and they use an iconic image of Nico as their logo.) Their lyrics are often embarrassing—more like a sequence of rhymes than actual poetry, with little substance to indicate any of them are older than 13. Nico it ain't.

But despite their corny yet perfectly po-faced «turn on, tune in, drone out» psychedelia revival schtick (employing Native American imagery, presumably to automatically render the whole thing somehow «spiritual»), the Black Angels' first slew of self-produced EPs and albums combined primitive rhythms, scuzzy bass grooves, sultry tremolo guitars and tambourines like rattlesnakes, occasionally punctuated by neck hair-raising screams, making for eminently danceable rock'n'roll that made you gag for the sex and drugs to complete the equation. For all the bullshit image bullshit, the music was great. Devoid of silly little pop hooks, it had a slightly menacing, creeping underbelly feel, lurking beneath the rhythmically hypnotic swagger. It's so hard to find music to dance to that isn't yet another fucking celebration of this, that or the other, or just pacifying and diverting and completely irrelevant to any human emotion with grit. Live, the Black Angels made you want to grab whichever person was immediately next to you and fuck them up against the nearest wall. They had balls. (The band, I mean, not the person you may or may not have been fucking up against the wall. But with that soundtrack, who cares? Buy copies of Passover and Directions to See a Ghost and hear for yourself…)

For their third full-length, the Black Angels enlisted a producer. (The guy behind this.) The result—last autumn's Phosphene Dream—isn't as raw, is a bit more uneven, but at least it's more varied, expanding upon what could easily have become a formula.

There was a promotional push where you could pre-order the album. You got a couple of mp3s at once, then a little later the digital album as you waited for the CD in the post. After the release date, however, four other versions of Phosphene Dream were unveiled, each with its own set of bonus tracks—none of which came with the version purchased directly off the band's website. iTunes' edition featured two bonus tracks («Melanie's Melody», «Ronettes»), Amazon's another («My Boat Is Sinking»), ShockHound's yet another («At Night») and Napster—where you have to buy an additional subscription just for access—offered an additional two («Choose to Choose», «Raindance Song»). In all cases, the bonus mp3s were only made available if you bought the entire album. That's four copies of Phosphene Dream (not counting the regular edition perhaps already purchased in other record stores or on the band's website). If you have a US credit card, that is—most of these «exclusive»/«deluxe» versions aren't even available elsewhere.

It's a puzzling marketing ploy that's becoming more and more common among indie labels. The artist is exploited and the music lover fucked, just so that a few distributors may cash in—marginally. Worse than unethical—there are more important things in the news—it's stupid.

For the Black Angels, it was a continuation of an unfortunate trend that began with their sophomore album, which was similarly pushed before its release date with an offer any obsessive completist couldn't resist: pre-order it and you got an exclusive, limited edition EP. An EP that may currently be purchased through the group's website, just like any other CD. I'm looking forward to the episode of «Mad Men» where they invent the use of the words «exclusive» and «limited
edition» to move product. It would've been in the 1960s, judging from the Black Angels…

In any case, if you're miffed or feel gypped by the Black Angels' shifty record company Blue Horizon (which doesn't even have a website), here's a little something to cheer you up:

No comments:

Post a Comment