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Tower of Babble 

Pink Mountaintops are one-third of a triptych that Steve McBean is creating to some monolithic, inconstant rock god. He's wholly devoted to the task. At once architect and finish carpenter, he obsesses over every inch of his massive, tie-dyed, stoner-rock altarpiece, from broadest concept to minutest embellishment. (The other two-thirds of the triad include Jerk With a Bomb and Black Mountain.) He knows exactly what he wants, even if we lay people can't get a clear picture of what that is.

The players revolve, the individual projects seem to shift scope with each release, and they all sound similar (aided by McBean's singular, slurred tenor). It's tough to put a thumb on just what makes a Pink Mountaintops album; it's even harder to differentiate between them and, say, Black Mountain. It'd all be much simpler if McBean just stuck to one moniker, but he doesn't. It's clear, though, that when he tours as a certain act, he sticks to that body of work. (Don't go to a Black Mountain show expecting to hear a Jerk With a Bomb song.)

And, in the case of Pink Mountaintops, the body of work diverges wildly. The self-titled debut was a big, shiny tower of sex imagery. Even songs that didn't begin that way, according to an interview with Discorder, "sort of morphed into being about sex in other ways." Still more were just ironically titled. "Sweet '69," for example, which was meant as an ode to the music of that era, seems lascivious in a Pink Mountaintops context.

The band's latest, Axis of Evol, however, turns away from the pervy, druggy anatomical poetry of the debut to meditate, with an inexplicable (though still druggy) piety, on how the ambitions of earthly power distort our perceptions of the nature of God. The imagery is that of a big-tent revival, sin-focused and full of baptismal fire. Satan makes appearances, as does God, but we've distorted their natures. McBean believes that the jingoists and war hawks have hijacked God for some very nasty deeds.

The self-titled album and Axis of Evol (and thus, the live show, we expect) then, would intersect somewhere around Hieronymus Bosch's early period. With sanctity and depravity onstage at once, it'll be a collage of sin, decadence, false idols and, one hopes, righteous indignation.

Focusing in "How Can We Get Free" on our hatred and xenophobia, McBean asks, "Jesus, is this hell that you see?" Though it may be crass, sex-obsessed, paranoid, self-indulgent and reverb-heavy, you can never claim that stoner rock isn't inclusive. That seems to be where his multifarious, multi-faceted projects intersect. Whether black, white, queer, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jew or whatever, McBean believes we're all children of the same.

Pink Mountaintops plays at the University of Idaho in the SUB Ballroom, Moscow, Idaho, on Sunday, March 26, at 7:30 pm. Free. Call 208-885-6485.

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