Tusks Stuck in the Muck


In the middle of L.A.’s concrete wasteland is the certifiably vile La Brea tar pit. Sold as a tourist attraction, it’s really just an inky pool of congealed petroleum mixed with water smelling of rotten eggs. In eons past, the story goes, it looked more like a real lake. Mammoths would stumble into it in search of a drink and get stuck. Then saber-toothed tigers would see the helpless mammoths and strike. And they would stick in the mire. Then carrion-eating birds would see the mound of dead meat, think it was easy pickings, and become caught fast, too.

So now there is a long-standing museum at the pit where archaeologists sort through the mess, scraping off caked oil and reconstructing skeletons. Some of it must be easy work. There’d be no mistaking the fist-sized molar of a mammoth, as you can plainly see from the illustration of a skull handily included with Mammoth Volume’s Noara Dance. Differentiating the breastbone of a common vulture from a similar bird that lived much earlier, though, must be much harder. Which is sort of like figuring out what’s up with Mammoth Volume.

Mellotrons come out of the sky and stand there throughout Noara Dance, but they have more to do with larks’ tongues than with roundabouts. The mastodon riff on “Railroad Rider” is straight from Jeff Beck as channeled through Martin Pugh for Keith Relf’s Armageddon. “As Say the Pilgrims, So Say I” even has the archetype prog pretension, although I’m suspicious it’s wise-guy sarcasm—coming, as it does, near the throwaway end and flip-flopping between wimpy-college-nerd stereosonics and David Cross fills. Most of the time, Mammoth Volume rip up the concrete from sheer lumpen excitement. And even when falling short, Noara Dance is still a, uh, La Brea of love. (Ouch! Please don’t hit me.)