The Best Albums of 2013, #10

band01Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats,
Mind Control

When I first heard Uncle Acid’s Blood Lust in 2011, I wasn’t quite sold on it. The tone felt too DIY for the style of music, the vocals too weird, almost contrived in their pitchy Lennon worship. It wasn’t until nearly a year later, when the long-delayed official US release forced me to revisit it and I realized, hey, this is one great album. What was so interesting about the follow-up was just how different an approach it took. While Blood Lust was all about overtly Satanic themes, ranging from LaVey shtick to ‘60s occult rock, Mind Control digs much deeper. The album is about just what its title implies, with enigmatic mastermind Kevin R. Starrs delving into the darker, seedier side of religious cults, namely the Manson family. It was seemingly built on utopian ideals, alternative forms of living for those coming out of the hippie counterculture, but was frightening proof of what could happen when in the hands of a brilliant sociopath. Mind Control follows a distinct arc, starting with the prophetic (“Mt. Abraxas”), the seductive (“Mind Crawler”, “Poison Apple”), earnestness (“Desert Ceremony”). Things quickly take a much, much darker turn as that utopia turns out to have a seamy underbelly (“Evil Love”, “Death Valley Blues”). By the album’s final third, all hope is lost, brainwashing is complete (“Follow the Leader”), and love is replaced by murder (“Valley of the Dolls), and the leader’s true intentions are revealed to all (“Devil’s Work”). While some complained the energy of Blood Lust was sorely missed on Mind Control, I counter by saying the album brilliantly reflects the lyrical theme. It starts off with stately Sabbath-esque doom, shifts into furious garage rock, ominous Pentagram-style heavy rock, starts to evoke late-‘60s Los Angeles (“Death Valley Blues” ingeniously quotes The Beatles’ own LA-inspired “Blue Jay Way”), the Sharon Tate-inspired “Valley of the Dolls” is suitably hazy and almost deadened in its delivery, while “Devil’s Work” is flat-out the scariest sounding song Starrs has ever come up with. Toss in the fact that Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats sound like an actual band for the first time, and you have an album that, while it doesn’t have the immediacy of Blood Lust, is actually the more fully realized piece of work. Plus its lavish double white vinyl gatefold is my favourite album design of the year. It’s a mesmerizing, hypnotic experience.