Stephen McBean on Saccharine Trust – Paganicons


I can’t think of a time that the works of Stephen McBean weren’t shaping the site. RSTB first popped up just after Black Mountain’s eponymous debut and the subsequent flip from The Pink Mountaintops. Both bands have lived in symbiosis for years, with Mountain taking the prog dip and Mountaintops carving pop out of the heaviness. McBean returns this year to The Pink Mountaintops, their first in 8 years, for a record that pushes the band further into arms of excess than ever. They make it feel like a natural progression, a reckoning of influences. Pounding through the-sweat slicked corners of pop, The Mountaintops slither, shake, and thrust all while crafting a cadre of hooks, reshaping a Black Flag classic, and laying bare quite a few moments of ego-stripped self-reflection. I asked Stephen to pick an entry for the Hidden Gems series and as is often the case in this series I wasn’t disappointed. Slip below to see Stephen work through how the damaged vision of Saccharine Trust came into his life and the impact it had once it landed.

“Art damaged Southern California (post) punk doesn’t get any better,” boasts McBean. “There are strains of SST contemporaries Minutemen choking the throbbing beach goth of early Christian Death and the Adolescents darker journeys into the black hole.  I was too young to see them open up for Black Flag and The Subhumans in ’82, but I saw the posters and bought the record.”

“It sat in-between Joy Divison’s Closer & Rudimentary Peni’s Death Church as [one of] my 14 year old tune-out-planet-earth headphone favorites. The doubled vocals of “Effort To Waste” eclipsed others vomiting nostalgic strains of ’77. “Mad At The Co” and “We Don’t Need Freedom” were almost blue collar straight jacket anthems. It climaxes with the monotone dirge of “A Human Certainty.” Joe Baiza’s 6 string ice wire skronk provides the perfect foil to Jack Brewer’s frigid howl that would be irritating if he didn’t sound so legitimately deranged.” 

“A live video from NY’s Peppermint Lounge was found in a dumpster and uploaded to the tube in early 2021 while I was recording Peacock Pools.  It provided some inspiration for a chunk of brittle guitars and improvised “beat poetry” that made its way onto the record. After that I did a deep dive back into their catalog. Seventeen minutes and forty two seconds was all Saccharine Trust needed to create their otherworldly paranoia drenched masterpiece. Their follow-up was good, but their first statement remains a landmark of what used to be known as punk rock.”

Along with the bulk of the SST catalog, this one continues to be a classic, and thankfully, it was reissued in 2015 for those that don’t want to shell out $100+ for an original. The 12” is as brittle and bracing as Stephen makes it out to be, and if this isn’t already in your collection, it might be about time to rectify that. The Pink Mountaintops new album Peacock Pools is out this week from their new home at ATO. It’s recommended you pop over and pick that one up this week as well.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE

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