Black Lips

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
The Black Lips (2003), 6.5/10
We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow (2004), 6/10
Let It Bloom (2005), 7/10
Good Bad Not Evil (2007), 5/10
200 Million Thousand (2009), 4.5/10
Arabia Mountain (2011), 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

The Black Lips from Atlanta (Georgia), fronted by vocalist Cole Alexander, debuted with the amateurish The Black Lips (2002), still featuring original guitarist Ben Eberbaugh, a collection of lascivious garage rave-ups. The overture, Throw It Away, pays tribute to the 13th Floor Elevators with miasmatic vocals and march-like guitar strumming and drumming. Freakout resurrects the anthemic verve of the Fleshtones adding savage vocals. Ain't No Deal disfigures Byrds-ian jangling guitars. The rhythm of these garage gems is stubbornly primitive, just a ruthless banging over and over again. Down And Out ventures into Captain Beefheart's territory. They are less successful when they try the agonizing blues (Stone Cold), poppy refrains (Fad), rollicking rigmaroles (Everybody Loves A Cocksucker), or Ramones-ian punk-rock (I've Got A Knife). Singalongs such as You're Dumb might be fun to sing but are basically amateurish takes on the Stooges.

Crude atonality and amazing bad taste gloriously persevered on We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow (2004). The exuberant and feverish M.I.A. seems to up the ante compared with the first album, and the catchy refrain of the fast-paced Nothing At All seems to take the New York Dolls as a reference point. Super X-13, instead, exceeds in pulsating chaos and noise. However, Stranger, Notown Blues and Time Of The Scab are collections of dejavu riffs. The notable exception is the neoclassical parody 100 New Fears (replete with harpsichord).

The same tactics further devastated Let It Bloom (In The Red, 2005), that ended up sounding ferocious and sinister where the first albums sounded playful and merely outrageous. The brief 16 songs make the point without a lot of subtlety. Sea Of Blasphemy is a perfect imitation of the sound of the early garage-bands, replete with barbed-wire guitars and defiant vocals (with the addition of free-form noise). The supersonic frenzy of Can't Dance evokes precisely the "dance crazes" of the early Sixites, and the bluesy Boomerang is reminiscent of early Rolling Stones. Unfortunately it's mostly downhill from there, with the exception of the effervescent Gung Ho and Take Me Home. The band captures the rebellious zeitgeist of the era in the agonizing Gentle Violence and the polka-esque singalong Punk Slime. All of them recorded as primitive as possible.

After the live Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo (Vice, 2007), the band partially retreated from the abyss of musical horror with the better played Good Bad Not Evil (2007), that even featured the slow and poppy Veni Vidi Vici and the country-music send-up How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died, leaving the rude O Katrina and Slime and Oxygen in the background.

Even by their standards, 200 Million Thousand (Vice, 2009) contains some truly demented skits. Unfortunately, it's the music that does not stand up to the (sometimes glorious) ideas. Drugs is the anthem of a saloon band that has listened too often to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and ends up sounding like the most rocking Bruce Springsteen. The piano boogie Short Fuse is the last sign of life. Starting Over is a trite melody and I'll Be with You is a lame ballad. Searching for mainstream acceptance, they found mediocrity.

Sophisticated arrangements turned Arabia Mountain (2011) into an aural sculpture (credit Amy Winehouse's producer Mark Ronson), the exact opposite of its predecessor. Their imitation of the era of garage-rock becomes a painstaking exercise in recreating the same production values and augment them with the swooning grace of digital tools. Next to what is basically a polished rewrite of their canon (Family Tree and Mad Dog) and the usual sampling of themes and techniques from the Kinks, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones and Animals (Don't You Mess Up My Baby), the Black Lips unfurl anthemic pop ditties (Go Out and Get It and New Direction) and Californian folk-rock elegies (Spidey's Curse and Bone Marrow) that are more nostalgic than a vintage diary, but also one hell of a punk-rock slam-dance (Raw Meat).

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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