Mount Rushmore

High on Mount Rushmore

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Also-rans of the San Francisco psychedelic era, Mount Rushmore gigged frequently with fellow travelers Big Brother & the Holding Company, Canned Heat, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, but this debut LP is evidence enough of why they aren't held in the same esteem. Mount Rushmore pumped out competent electric boogie with a boozy edge, but they coast on distortion and attitude rather than songcraft or instrumental prowess, placing them firmly in the garage band tradition but not among the trendsetters that shared their bills. The brief liner notes introduce the band as self-proclaimed "country boys" who "dig to take their funky grey truck on the road," and they sound like hicks too, full of confidence and bluster but possessing only the simplest of skills. Opening a debut LP with Jimi Hendrix's "Stone Free" is a bold move and a curious choice, establishing the territory that the band will mine and exactly how they measure up to the gold standard (in Mount Rushmore's case, nowhere near). However, High on Mount Rushmore contains some tracks of interest to the dedicated psych-rock historian. "I Don't Believe in Statues" closes out side one and functions as a manifesto of sorts, an indignant outsider cry set to charging riffs that sound like an Amboy Dukes record warped by the sun. The ten-minute epic "Looking Back" scores highest in rock action; plus, it features a crude but convincing space jam breakdown that boasts disoriented feedback, thunderstorm sound effects, and random hippie banter floating through the atmosphere. The LP concludes with a taste of Mount Rushmore's live act, as a small but enthusiastic audience joins the band in the studio to encourage their hammier tendencies. The resultant medley includes "Dope Song," a jokey jug band-style marijuana anthem, a boneheaded, boisterous singalong complete with kazoo and sure to irritate any hippie-hater. High On suffers from tinny sonics that sap volume and tone, and much of it sounds more like a demo than a finished album, but the low budget suits Mount Rushmore. In 2002, a European label called Lizard released a CD containing all of High on Mount Rushmore plus the sole follow-up LP, Mount Rushmore '69, but otherwise all of this obscure psych band's material has been difficult to find and not often sought out. Fans of Up, Blue Cheer, and other Aquarius Age punks might hear music in Mount Rushmore's clumsy jams, but a full-fledged renaissance is unlikely beyond a minority of collectors.

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