Can Stephen McBean do anything wrong? His intense lyrics and guitar fuel the monster psych drone that is Black Mountain — Pink Moutaintops was originally just a side project. As Outside Love and his previous two releases under the moniker have proven, it’s much more than that.
Joined by a slew of musical friends from Black Mountain, Jackie O Motherfucker, SunnO))) and others, McBean uses Outside Love to focus on the harsh and sweaty aspects of love. But despite the Danielle Steele-looking book on the album cover, this is romance as written by Charles Manson.
Electric guitars lay low in a muddy mix until they pounce, acoustic ones remain inside the wall of sound but are still palpable. Love here boils down to what is outside of romantic love: namely, hate and lust. That fine line is explored in all its greasy truths. “Axis: Throne of Love,” “Vampire” and “And I Thank You” all explore the psychic damage wrought by emotions both necessary and dread. While “Closer to Heaven” and “The Gayest of Sunbeams” suggest that sometimes sex might be enough, such sentiments are delivered sardonically. So is there hope here? Yes, if only from the fact that after the sweaty longing and embracing turns into boredom and soul-deadening contempt, one can move on, restored and ready for the next war.
Outside Love is brilliant, disturbing and powerful. McBean has done what most artists dream of: creating a vehicle for telling the truth as bravely as possible. Even with the majesty that is Black Mountain, the Mountaintops are my choice.