To change the tone and incorporate a wider remit of reviews, here are Atlanta-based ‘rockcandy garageniks’ Black Lips with their new album, 200 Million Thousand, which is released in the UK and Europe on 16th March.
Black Lips formed in 2000, released an eponymous first album on Bomp! Records in 2003 and a follow up, We Did Not Know The Forest Spirit Made The Flowers Grow the following year. In The Red Records released their next, Let It Bloom, before the band signed with Vice Records to record Good Bad Not Evil and this, their fifth album. Recently booted out of India during a tour there, their on-stage act has a definite punk edge to it. Vomit and piss are their weapons of choice...
Defiantly lo-fi in attitude, Black Lips are instantly comparable to early Jesus & Mary Chain, their high-frequency effects and take no crap attitude masking well constructed rock ‘n’ roll, surf and garage psych tunes played like they are hanging around the street corners of a dilapidated town, sneering at the passers-by and totally confident in their own swagger. A cigarette on the lip, and a teenage lip on at the world... that Rebel Without A Cause, everything and everyone against me, prowling the streets in a Plymouth Barracuda, hanging in gangs thing, delivered with a sneer and angst. What rock ‘n’ roll is all about, basically.
‘Drugs’ is classic disaffected stuff, unadulterated grit. ‘Starting Over’ on the other hand is, again just like a Mary Chain track, a beguiling pop song given a rough, scruffy makeover but not quite obscuring what it really is. ‘I’ll Be With You’ is a 50s High School dance slow number with a calypso edge, ‘Big Black Baby Jesus Of Today’ a Spaghetti Western beat, ‘Again & Again’ an anthemic rant and ‘The Drop I Hold’ a moody rap.
Where their hotchpotch of styles doesn’t particularly grab me is in their portentous psychedelic Goth, ‘Trapped In A Basement’, snatching one example, is overworked Hammer Horror with vaguely carrousel background sounds that eschews the immediacy of what is really great about much of this album. They sound best when they are grabbing their songs by the scruff of the neck and wringing the hell out of them with some no-nonsense speed guitar or playing perfect pop songs disguised as ramshackle, thrown together, distortions – that’s where the highlights of this record are.