Despite moves to make themselves as inaccessible to their audience as possible -- what with fake names like Tobacco, the cryptic descriptions of being from the woods of Pennsylvania, and a reliance on the Auto-Tuner that even T-Pain could question -- Black Moth Super Rainbow’s fine third album, Dandelion Gum, with its blooming flowers of psychedelic pop, found a more than accepting audience in 2006. Black Moth Super Rainbow’s improved fourth album, Eating Us, bears all the touches of a follow-up to a critically lauded work: larger sounds, a big name producer (Dave Fridmann) and a honed sense of purpose that forms the band’s best effort to date.
Hiring on uber-producer Fridmann, who’s had more bombs than hits lately (see Tapes ‘n Tapes Walk It Off), seemed like an unnecessary gambit for Black Moth, considering they’d achieved the perfect sonic milieu for their sun-washed psych-outs on their own. But Fridmann’s work here is subtle, and he augments, instead of alters, the band’s established vibe. The drums (which are now played by a drummer instead of a machine) on tracks like album highlight “Born on a Day the Sun Didn’t Rise” and “Tooth Decay” are booming, and the synths are wired to explode like solar flares, no doubt a Fridmann influence.
Where Dandelion Gum had the tendency to wear out the further you ventured down its 17-song track list, Eating Us is a svelte 12 songs, maximizing the impact of astral singles like the glittery “Dark Bubbles,” the bouncy “Twin of Myself” and the skittering “The Sticky.” But while the songs may be shorter and less in number, there’s no sign of Black Moth going all pop; there’s an emphasis on effervescent, Auto-Tuned wordless vocals on tracks like the ruminative “Fields Are Breathing,” the floating “Bubblegum Animals” and the Black Sabbath-esque “Iron Lemonade.” Coupled with multiple musical interludes with no vocals at all, the music is relied on to provide a sense of place and drama, and for the course of Eating Us, it (mostly) does.
Eating Us is sure to have its detractors, since the band have completely committed to doing their established vocoder-assisted psych-rock with little change up over yet another album. But proper closer “American Face Dust” (there’s an instrumental hidden track afterward), with its hazy and rustic banjo providing grounding for the band’s old tricks, proves there’s more than enough in the well material for Black Moth Super Rainbow to draw from in the future.
Like many indie bands that breakthrough on the back of lo-fi masterpieces, Black Moth Super Rainbow hired super producer Dave Fridmann to help give their work a bigger sheen on their new album, Eating Us. The Pittsburgh noise-niks' last effort Dandelion Gum was a messy masterpiece, and Fridmann has been known to help bands find a focus (like he did with the Flaming Lips in the late '90s), so maybe he can make Eating Us the band's breakthrough, as opposed to their flameout like he did with Tapes n' Tapes on their sophomore album, Walk It Off.