May 06, 2022
By Austin Saalman
Pink Mountaintops’ first album in eight years, Peacock Pools is a lukewarm return for prolific multi-instrumentalist Stephen McBean and company, whose previous efforts Pink Mountaintops and Get Back stand among the greatest indie releases of their respective decades.
Per usual, the Vancouver, B.C.-based collective boasts an impressive lineup: this time around, McBean is joined by Redd Kross’ Steven McDonald, Melvins’ Dale Crover, vocalist Emily Rose Epstein, violinist/vocalist Laena Myers-Ionita, and Dave “Rave” Ogilvie, with the latter of whom McBean co-produced the album. McBean’s Black Mountain bandmates Joshua Wells and Jeremy Schmidt are also present, the group delivering the solid musicianship and intense neo-psychedelic kicks expected of a true Pink Mountaintops release. Still, Peacock Pools, with the exception of several phenomenal tracks, feels somehow less inspired than its predecessors. This is not to say that the album is lacking in quality, as McBean appears incapable of writing a sloppy song, but one cannot help but find Peacock Pools’ colors slightly muted in comparison to those of the group’s previous efforts.
Of course, the album boasts its share of high points, such as “Nikki Go Sudden,” McBean’s affecting tribute to late post-punk idol Nikki Sudden. This dark lullaby’s destructive adolescent enchantment recalls the best of the group’s ’00s output, with McBean singing tenderly of “lipstick stains and runaways.” Likewise, “You Still Around,” another mellow concoction, reflects McBean’s solid songwriting abilities as he ventures further down the psychedelic rabbit hole, paying obvious homage to early Pink Floyd. Retro sci-fi fantasy “Lights of the City” and thrashing “All This Death is Killing Me” are also noteworthy, Pink Mountaintops rocking harder than ever on the latter, while the easygoing indie folk sway of “The Walk – Song for Amy” could very well have placed it alongside Outside Love’s strongest inclusions 13 years ago. Even the group’s cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” works relatively well, McBean being an ideal candidate for reinterpreting the iconic punk outfit’s frenzied mania. In contrast, however, wan efforts such as “Shake the Dust,” “Lady Inverted Cross,” and “Muscles”—despite the latter’s entirely convincing New Wave sensibilities—fall short of leaving the lasting impact of, say, “Leslie,” “New Teenage Mutilation,” or “While We Were Dreaming.”
Ultimately, Peacock Pools finds McBean still doing what he does best—crafting darkly atmospheric homages to his vast array of popular culture influences, albeit lacking the penetrating fangs of his finest work. Devoted fans of McBean and his collaborators may be a bit more impressed with the album than the casual listener, as it still feels like a Pink Mountaintops effort. The collective boasts no shortage of remarkable musical talent and vision, and one longs to love the album based on this alone, but Peacock Pools is simply too middling to merit such passion. (www.pinkmountaintops.com)
Author rating: 6/10
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