Pink Mountaintops is often classified as a “side project” for frontman Stephen McBean, who also heads up the monolithic riff-rock group Black Mountain. But with 2009′s Outside Love, McBean made a convincing case for Pink Mountaintops being the yin to Black Mountain’s yang. While McBean draws on the grandeur and pomposity of ’70s rock in Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops has been an avenue for his more sensitive, intimate impulses. Psychedelia is the connective thread between the two bands, but on Outside Love McBean showed a penchant for winsome pop that proved perfect for expressing his melancholic side.
For Get Back, the first Pink Mountaintops LP in five years, McBean takes a curious pivot away from the tender sensibility of Love toward full-on glitter-rock scumminess. Take what is sure to be the album’s most polarizing track, “North Hollywood Microwaves,” a bizarre exercise in chugga-chugga guitars, squawking saxophone and gross-out freestyling courtesy of special guest star Annie Hardy of Giant Drag. The lyrics are perhaps better heard in Hardy’s girlish bleat than read on the page, but let’s just say that listeners who recoil over Rod Stewart jokes and references to bear semen might want to skip this track.
It’s tempting to chalk up the abrupt aesthetic shift on Back to a change in geography: McBean recently left Vancouver for Los Angeles, and Get Back is obviously preoccupied the same Tinsel Town decadence that also entranced everyone from Warren Zevon to X to Jane’s Addiction to Father John Misty. The vacuous riffs and coked-out howling of one-note psych janglers like “Through All the Worry” (one of two tracks featuring J. Mascis on guitar) and “New Teenage Mutilation” are intended to evoke damaged starlets and puke-strewn streets. But as the title of “The Second Summer of Love” suggests, what really seems to be driving Get Back is creative exhaustion. Pink Mountaintops may be no mere side project, but Get Back is certainly McBean’s most trivial record yet.