It doesn't take a radical to conclude that, if the Bush administration has been wearing their "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets this whole time, then they're following a Jesus that has let his main points slide.
Though the recent headlines say it with some comic relief with former pres aide Claude Allen's shoplifting charge and Dick Cheney's friendly fire it's safe to say that in the past six years, the Bushies have dismissed the Ten Commandments more than international law.
And, if outsiders often have a sharper insight than those stuck in the thick of it, Canuck rocker Steve McBean is a proper, if unlikely, biblical whistle-blower; unlikely only in the fact that on most of his albums, he's chased after evil rock riffs and sensuous pleasures.
With his main Vancouver outfit Black Mountain (formerly Jerk with a Bomb), he and his comrades did much last year to get indie kids nosing around the Black Sabbath bin. The 2004 debut of his more solo guise, Pink Mountaintops, had so much 2 a.m. sex in it that almost everyone thought the moniker stood for a great set of tits.
Sins of the body aside, Pink Mountaintops' sophomore effort, Axis of Evol, is on the lookout for a different kind of Jesus. Maybe one that doesn't, let's say, condone dropping bombs on people.
On "Plastic Man, You're the Devil" and "How Can We Get Free," McBean points the sermon back at the sermonizers, singing on the latter, "Man of war / You'll be crucified / Man of war / You'll be paralyzed." The spooked, minimalist dirge pleads, like much of the album, for a freedom from the demons, both personal and governmental.
"Obviously, I never knew Jesus," says McBean from a music store in Tuscon. "But it seems like he might be an all right dude. I have contempt for organized religion, but I have my things that get me through tough times."
With Axis of Evol, McBean says, he was writing in the vein of "old blues standards" and "gospels," where the lyrics are simple, so as not to tangle up the emotions. The album is hardly weighed down with quiet ruminations, however. Like other McBean projects, it quickly splashes up into a Velvet-Underground-meets-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain haze. And, as in the past, McBean is putting his influences to good use, and fearlessly.
"That's the whole thing about rock & roll," says McBean. "It's like, we're not intellectuals. We're just up there having fun ... Everyone borrows [from everyone else], and once you hang onto something long enough, it takes its own form and shape."
Easily the pinnacle of Axis, "Lord, Let Us Shine" takes its shape with pounding electronics, a choir backing McBean and a mound of glorious feedback. And the song makes you want to believe in something, even if it's just your friends, family or a sunny day. Recently, McBean has been thinking about such things.
"I used to be more like, maybe it was like, "You die and you rot in the ground, and that's it." But the more you live and the more people you connect with, all your spirits intertwine. It just seems like you can't, it doesn't end. It's like you're carried on in the hearts and memories and good times of all your family and friends and all that. ... Yeah, who knows, the conversation [about] that could go on forever."
Pink Mountaintops with Two Gallants and Bright Channel
hi-dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver
Friday, March 24, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $8; call 720/570-4500 for more info.