by Dylan Pennell (@dylan_pennell)
Whatever images of herculean efforts the Mountain Movers’ namesake conjures will undoubtedly evaporate within the first thirty seconds of hearing their new album Pink Skies. Not only are these songs wild and woolly like the finest psychedelic throwbacks of recent years (I’m looking at you, Spacin’), but they also manage to make the heroic playing on display completely devoid of the masturbatory masculinity that can sometimes co-opt even the most credible albums (now I’m looking at you, Sleep). Though the band breezily moves through epic track after epic track, none of this ever feels laborious or even anything less than a pleasure, which is more than I can say for a lot of solo-inflected psychedelic jaunts.
None of this is to say that the band doesn’t fall into some of the very same pitfalls as other similarly-styled bands, but rather, they do so with such levity and joy, that none of it ever registers as self-important or less than sincere. Many of the rock and psych tropes are there: lyrics about highways, walkin’, and feeling hazy, paired with screeching guitars, lethargic drums, and the general sense that all of this would comfortably accompany an acid trip with the most cliched set of gauzy visuals this side of Mandy.
However, this album manages to bypass all of the obnoxious pretense, the seemingly endless soloing, and the rancid psychedelic tropes by not only seeming effortless, but also striking a note of mirth too often ignored by self-serious acts too unaware of how often the words “flower power” creep into the brain of the average person upon hearing someone describe music as “psychedelic.”
Given the fanboying I’ve just done, you might think that New Haven’s Mountain Movers have unlocked some new chamber in the dungeon of warped psychedelia, but that is not the case at all. Rather, they’ve embraced the oft-forgotten corners once lovingly celebrated by the likes of Os Mutantes and Pink Floyd at their most playful and deranged. Album opener “Freeway” conjures images of just that as the drums work to keep the motor running and the guitar, broken and stumbling through a variety of headphone-ready textures, leads the track, stealing the wheel from vocalist and mastermind Dan Greene and refusing to ever give it back. Despite the relative aimlessness of the track - it clocks in at over seven minutes long, has no chorus or verse, and the drums stay insistent - it feels like an appropriate introduction to an album that refuses focus and defies classification. Which is why the intro’s follow-up “Snow Drift” feels like such an open-handed smack to the cheek when the band focuses their energy into a rock n’roll snarl. Just as the song starts to hit its stride, the vocals drop out and the guitar hijacks the remainder of the run time, throwing back its hair, taking a swill of beer and promptly spitting it back onto the bar.
The band makes this oscillation into a dependable push and pull between the band’s rock snarl and the more meditative, blissed out numbers.“Snow Drift” might not hit as hard were it not preceded by the lovely wandering of “Freeway,” and the brash sleeplessness of “My Eyes Are Always Heavy” might not be as liberating were it not sandwiched between the lovely meditations of “Bridge To This World” and “The Other Side of Today.”
And it’s in this oscillation that this band has learned its greatest strength - the pleasure of polarity and the necessity of joy. While the album’s formatting may grow frustrating for those who are looking for hard-hitting gut punches or the meandering beauty of psych-guitars, the constant back and forth could feel tedious, but these people would be missing the point entirely: Mountain Movers aren’t interested in commitment, they know the strengths of their stylistic dichotomy and are more than willing to not only be masters of a diverse craft, but also willing to take the risks in potentially blue-balling their listener only to give them what they want moments later. And frankly, it’s a goddamn thrill.