From the sound of things, Pink Mountaintops frontman Steve McBean will convert to conservative Christianity the day that George W. Bush turns into an Iranian Mullah. Throughout Axis of Evol, the Vancouver songwriter (who also fronts Black Mountain) references Christian imagery with a detached laziness that is clearly insincere, setting a tone reminiscent of the pseudo-gospel posturing of bands like Spacemen 3 and Primal Scream. Musically, the album's songs are constructed in a loose, drug-induced style inspired by early Velvet Underground, which is also something Jesus probably wouldn't do. But as the band jumps between lonely quiet folk and noisy psychedelic blues rock (delivered with the Sonic Youth cool that the album title suggests), things are tied together by McBean's compelling lyrical themes that equally recall the Bible and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The album opens with a claim that McBean isn't "headed down a highway to hell," although he proudly proclaims on the next track that he is one of "the new drug queens." Closer "How We Can Get Free" references Jesus and war in a clever nod to the bygone days of evangelical populism, while standout track "Lord, Let Us Shine" glows with feigned religious optimism. McBean probably isn't going to convert anyone, but the thoughtfulness and self-aware contradictions of Axis of Evol make it one of the more interesting albums released this year, even if it won't receive much praise from youth group directors.
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