To be impartial, I was planning not to involve my love-hate relationship with Mount Carmel in a review of their sophomore effort, Real Women. But emotions are necessary. Whether you loathe or praise what this Columbus, Ohio trio does, it’s a record that speaks to the duality of man himself. If you can’t find multiple moments within that don’t induce a little air guitar and a reason to groove with the windows down, then you don’t have a soul. Then again, if you think Mount Carmel are here to save rock & roll using riffs that were already overused decades ago and the oft-aped aesthetics of a road-weary blues band, then you’re a schmuck. There might also be reservations about including such a traditionally Clapton-worshipping outfit in the pages of Primitive Futures, but with a Siltbreeze logo anything goes. You have to trust in the label, and they’ve got to sell some Cadillacs—something that can’t be done with a closet full of Yips albums. And think about it, if The Agit Reader was around when The Black Keys offered us The Big Come Up, we would have been all over it, and look how that turned out. With Real Women, Mount Carmel seems poised to tap into that zeitgeist, though it’s always been in their blood. There’s no piggy-backing or cash grabs in the mix; it’s formed with genuine love for the spirit of the ’70s. Mount Carmel wants you to concentrate on big amps, loose jams, joints the size of zeppelins and, ahem, the need for real women. They have no time for trends, punk or atonal garbage. Save it for your blog.
“If you do me good, I will do you good,” howls Matt Reed in the first few lines of “Swaggs,” and that sentiment is spread over the entire record. For every instance on Real Women when you catch a whiff of the Allman Brothers cringe-worthy rendition of “Whipping Post” or even the Black Crowes (see “Choose Wisely”), there is also an essence of Free, Blue Cheer or Grand Funk. This aura of the past is perfectly captured in Real Women’s production, and the trio know that history better than most. But they’re not bringing it to the present. Instead, they’re doing everything in their power to get back to that time. I’m also a sucker for the simplicity of their good vibes, and these songs aren’t about anything other than those good vibes. It’s mindless fun really and often just a bunch of hot licks (not tunes ) linked together in search of the lost jam. When melodies do appear, as in the finale of the searing “Oh Louisa,” you see that the band’s chops are impeccable. When they pack the entirety of those dynamics into two minutes, as they do on “Don’t Make Me Evil,” it’s a heady, primal delight on par with Pentagram’s earliest recordings. To be fair, I’m not advocating that any of this blues wankery is needed in the 21st century, but Real Women truly feels like a album that’s gunning to be included in the same patois as those bands I’ve already mentioned. Real Women has guts, precision and tone, with little filler. As polarizing as an idea as Mount Carmel is, and despite which side of the fence you might sit with a record like Real Women, there’s no denying the heart that went into making it.
Kevin J. Elliott