Sensory Overload: Mount Carmel

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

All I remember from that afternoon in Goodale Park is tired riffs and uninventive soloing. Blues rock cribbed directly from the psychedelic '60s - it ain't rocket science, but it shouldn't be child's play either, and what these guys were doing was practically paint-by-numbers.

I quickly tuned out and went to refill my beer mug.

Still, in the ensuing months the local power trio seemed to be attracting a few admirers, several of whom compared them favorably to Cream. So I checked out their stuff on MySpace. Still snooze-worthy.

Then came the news last month that Mount Carmel was set to release an album on Siltbreeze, the Philadelphia imprint run by Ohio ex-pat Tom Lax.

It was puzzling enough that a reputable label had plucked this band out of obscurity; what really sent the mind reeling was that their meal ticket would be a record label known for noisy experimental releases from the likes of artsy Columbus indie-rockers Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit.

Furthermore, Mount Carmel recorded the album under the supervision of lo-fi hero Mike Rep and Columbus Discount Records co-founder Adam Smith at venerable Columbus studio Musicol. All this support from the hippest of the hip was profoundly perplexing.

I bore no ill will toward the band - more power to 'em - I just didn't understand what all the fuss was about. So it only seemed right to give them one more chance to wow me. I headed to Carabar on Monday night to witness them in action between Athens garage bruisers The Makebelieves and San Diego psych-metal barons Earthless.

I approached Mount Carmel's set with an open mind, seeking to latch onto whatever spark of genius had won over so many refined musical palate.

At first, I did see some value in their show, particularly the pristinely fuzzy guitar and bass tones that sound like they're being beamed in directly from San Francisco circa 1968. And they're certainly well-rehearsed, nailing each solo and fill with machine-like precision.

But ultimately, that same robotic regularity was Mount Carmel's downfall. There seemed to be nothing spontaneous about this group - nothing explosive or unpredictable or dangerous. Their take on the grand tradition of psychedelic blues rock was so faithful it might as well have been a museum exhibit.

I remain underwhelmed.

Mount Carmel