Now, typically when I review albums I do the sensible thing and listen to the sucker from front to back. But when a band is capping off their album with a Blue Oyster Cult cover – especially an obscure one – of course my curiosity is going to get the better of me. And really, what Blue Oyster Cult song that isn’t Reaper, Godzilla, or Burnin’ isn’t obscure? And really, all I’m doing here is segueing into a rant which I’ve been meaning to let out for some time now. And that rant has everything to do with the sad state of BOC’s legacy, and the fact that they are – dare I say it – criminally overlooked. While Thin Lizzy fans (be they authentic or mere band-wagoners) seem to have secured some underground hideout from which they emerge in droves on any given Brooklyn evening, I can’t remember the last Cult back-patch I’ve seen embroidered onto some vintage denim. Sigh. Well, I’m just about ready to move on to the actual review, but I am going to put links to the first 3 BOC albums at the bottom of this post. Listen to them or else go to Hell, idiot.
Anyway, the album is Scaffolds in the Sky by Brooklyn heavy psych mainstays Mirror Queen, released April 21 by Tee Pee Records. The Blue Oyster Cult comparison sustains as I go from last to first to give the album a proper listen, dialing back to the title track which kicks things off; while I won’t be obligated to call the entire album a full-length serving of Cult worship, “Scaffolds of the Sky” (the song, which you can hear below) certainly posits itself as the companion piece to the album’s closer through an indubitable likeness to BOC’s aesthetic. It’s got that same mid-tempo, creepy coolness, the same equal-parts-cocky-and-lazy vocal stylings, and those same only-slightly-distorted guitar harmonies all swirling together into a strange, sinister dream of sunglasses, leather, and the macabre. And while they’re quite good at this kind of thing, it’s not to say they’re a one-trick pony, and the following track, “Quarantined”, proves this with a much heavier and more metallic grind; more grit on the tones, and more drive to the tempos. Dare I say I’m reminded of Trouble???
My favorite chunk of the album, however, comes right in the middle, with 4th and 5th tracks “Vagabondage” and “At the Borderline at the Edge of Time”, respectively. The former is one of the more raucous selections on the album, and has these realllly killer, Middle Eastern-sounding, descending guitar runs interspersed throughout the choruses. Equal parts exotic and evil, this is, for me, the pinnacle of this album. And then halfway into the song it shifts gears completely, dropping with very little warning into a dreamy interlude that perfectly encapsulates this band’s range, and ability to move seamlessly from a rollick to a haze. “At the Borderline…” follows, and it’s further evidence of this ability on a more micro scale, with constant shifts from straightforward riffage, to elegant verses, to straight up beautiful choruses. It might seem a bit counterintuitive to say that a band’s most midtempo songs stand out even more than their thrashers or their jammers, but this is really Mirror Queen’s bread and butter. While they clearly enjoy – and excel at – drawn out psychscapes, what I consider most bold about this album is its ability to flawlessly execute a kind of reserved riff-rock that can entrance and impress without needing to go straight for the jugular.
All in all, I think this album is great, and shows a band never afraid to stick to its guns and make good old fashioned rock and roll. Speaking from experience, it’s good music to listen to while you smoke a cigarette on your fire escape and watch cats silhouette along the tops of fences. It’s available via Tee Pee records, and can be purchased here. You can also have a listen to the title track right here:
And don’t forget those Cult albums:
Mirror Queen – “Scaffolds of the Sky” Album Review