by Marcus Bonner
Columbus, OH rock trio Mount Carmel brings a refreshing simplicity to a musical landscape characterized by elaborate subgenres.
“I would just describe it as rock-n-roll music,” says lead singer and guitarist Matt Reed. “It’s pretty simple.”
Mount Carmel’s blues-inspired riffs hit hard. Reed’s deft guitar solos and drummer James McCain’s tight and raucous rhythms will gratify those who appreciate technical proficiency. The influences of Black Sabbath and Cream are apparent in songs like the titular track from the band’s third and latest recording effort, Get Pure, released on their new label Alive Naturalsound last month. Though the music will probably bring old-timers back to 1976, it should still appeal to folks who barely remember Dazed and Confused because it’s a lot of fucking fun.
Matt Reed loves when people call the music a rip-off of any 20th Century classic rock act. If you dismiss Mount Carmel as derivative, you clearly don’t understand that all art is, so the band probably doesn’t want to hang out with you anyway.
“Strictly speaking, they’d be correct,” says Reed. “We are a rip-off of whatever, but so is fucking everyone else.”
The writer will be quick to point out that most of today’s “progressive” pop-rock is heavily steeped in the sounds of the 80s.
The name Mount Carmel refers not to the historic mountain in Palestine, but to the hospital in Columbus where Matt and brother/bassist Patrick Reed were born. Matt says they thought of the name during a bull session one day and figured it’d be pretty funny. It apparently serves the additional function of pissing off a few select people in Columbus.
To some extent, this effect is welcome. Mount Carmel’s strong foundation in prefix-free rock sets them slightly at odds with a Columbus music scene dominated by quasi-futuristic indie acts. This includes the band’s friends from their old label Stiltbreeze, with whom they put out their previous two albums, and where they were surrounded by vaguely psychedelic lo-fi electro-pop.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” says Reed, trying to find the words for what’s en vogue in his hometown. “But it’s not rock-n-roll.”
Considering this terrain of alienation and the title of the new album, one may infer that a kind of hardline classic rock purism is at the heart of Mount Carmel’s ethos. But this is a claim Matt Reed will vehemently deny.
“We’re not people who were weaned on the strictest diet of classic whatever,” says Reed, citing a wide range of influences.
The simplicity of their sound comes from passion for rock, not purism. Lord knows the rock-n-roll fascists are out there, but rest easy; you won’t find them here.
You can see Mount Carmel at Milkboy (recently moved from Kungfu Necktie) Sunday night at eight.
“If you’ve got nothing to do on Easter Sunday, come spend it with us.”