Review: Brokeback – Brokeback and the Black Rock
Published on January 9th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
A bold leap forward for Brokeback, the ‘brainchild’ of Tortoise bassist Douglas McCombs, as yer man moves onto lead guitar and ropes in a full band for a more expansive sound that roughly speaking weds Morricone soundtrack to Neil Young & Crazy Horse guitar. It’s a winner, and a welcome diversion from the (albeit enthralling) madness that Tortoise has become, a far more meditative and traditionally laid-out proposition.
Opener “Will Be Arriving” announces itself with nice firecracker brush drumming, chiming guitar and langorous bass, then about a third of the way through the sonic hairs on the back of its sonic neck prick up, and an enraptured lead guitar guides proceedings heavenwards. Harmonics, whirring feedback and crashing drums all show up, while a Rocksucker colleague/affiliate leaps up to grab a guitar and check if it follows the same progression as “Like a Hurricane”. He concluded that it didn’t quite.
“The Wire, the Rag, and the Payoff” – one comma too many? – continues the line in masterfully meandering and cinematic instrumental rock; you know, ‘rock’ as far as the set-up goes, ’cause Chuck Berry this ain’t. Elsewhere, delights are to be found in the form of Tex-Mex interludes “Tonight at Ten” and “Tonight at Eleven”, the drop-dead gorgeous combination of dissonant bass and floaty guitarpeggios on “Don’t Worry Pigeon”, and “Gold!”, which comes across a bit like Mogwai, Giant Sand and Jefferson Airplane performing an instrumental cover of “Angel” by Massive Attack.
All of which leaves mighty ten-minute closer “Colossus of Roads” to bring the curtain down on another compelling flight of fancy involving Douglas McCombs, not to mention Tortoise cohort John McEntire, who was involved in the engineering and mixing. We can’t wait to see where Tortoise go from 2009’s dazzling Beacons of Ancestorship, but this is certainly a satisfying helping in the meantime.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Brokeback and the Black Rock is out on 21st January through Thrill Jockey Records. For more information, please visit www.thrilljockey.com/thrill/Brokeback