“You can dream / C’mon, baby, dream” recites the lone Pink Mountaintops release that surfaced in 2011 “You Can Dream,” to reassure fans that Vancouver rocker Stephen McBean was still pursuing the project with Gregg Foreman (Cat Power) at his side. Hinted at again and again, Get Back has been on many a critics’ radar since and even though the new song justified the rumours, “You Can Dream” is nowhere to be seen on the album. Maybe it was all just a tongue-in-cheek ploy by the Mountaintops’ principal songwriter to tell demanding fans and media to keep dreamin’.
If that’s the case, then no one should be surprised because Get Back is a record for those who know how to take a joke. Cataloguing the rebellious coming-of-age every teenage rocker remembers getting sick off of malt liquor and hiding ashtrays behind their stack of Black Flag records to, it’s the live fast, never get old sermon we all need to stay inspired—a reminder of why you put on that first pair of chucks and rode your skateboard into the night, and believing that maybe through all the drugs and doubt, these were the right choices. Or maybe just accepting that there were no others.
Get Back does exactly what its title commands: returns to McBean’s heavy rock origins and lets go. Considering the impressive cast of long-haired collaborators McBean enlisted this time around, such as J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Steve Kille (Dead Meadow), Daniel Allaire (Brian Jonestown Massacre), and Annie Hardy (Giant Drag), it’s no wonder the release date has been drawn out. But it has arrived, and coming nearly full circle, The Pink Mountaintops’ fourth studio outing opens on the hard driving riffs of “Ambulance City” in a nod to the hi-fi headbanging that roused listeners a decade ago on Black Mountain’s self-titled album.
Recalling the rebellious youth that got him this far, cuts like “Through All the Worry” assure friends he’ll be fine, but appreciates their concern, while 1987 is nostalgically proclaimed “The Second Summer of Love.” Meanwhile “Sixteen” rides like a first taste of freedom where McBean only lets his foot off the gas to boldly announce, “I’m out of your control / teenage kicks and some rock ‘n’ roll!” in the sober realization that it’s his life and he can do whatever the hell he wants with it.
On Get Back everything is fair game as long as it rocks and “North Hollywood Microwaves” is no exception. A satirical feminist rant that would be out of place on any other Pink Mountaintops release, it fits with the album’s irrepressible playfulness as L.A. filth-freestyler Annie Hardy puts a wry twist on male sex drive that is sure to induce either shock or hilarity or both. All good things come to an end though, and “Shakedown” is an impending reminder of this. Nevertheless, J Mascis and his trademark guitar solos close out the final moments of freedom as McBean looms, “Some photograph lyin’ in the streets / The picture of youth / Oh, and how times change / And the clock keeps tickin’ / Some burnt out words for you to remember / Watch the shakedown.”
Like working on a motorcycle for years and never letting go of the throttle when it finally turns over, Get Back could have been a dangerous bastardization of the freewheeling teenage years all young rockers relish in. But it isn’t. Instead it rediscovers youth, reminds us that growing up is a sham, and burns a whole lotta cigarettes while doing it. Turn this one up loud and drive it ‘til the tank’s dry.