Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Black Lips CD Review - Laura Hird's Site

Published September, 2007
Laura Hird's Site

Black Lips Review at Laura Hird's Site

The Black Lips
by Alison Ross

The Black Lips is a band that seems poised to detonate at any moment onto the scene, fresh as the kids are from Austin’s fabled SXSW music festival, and from favourable write-ups in prominent rock magazines and even a front-page video clip feature in the New York Times online.

For now, however, the inscrutable Black Lips remain a rather obscure Atlanta quartet who boast an ever-expanding cult following. The band’s signature sound, a searing blend of 60s blues and jangle-pop, screeching 80s punk, and modern hipster garage rock, with nuanced dips into Motown and R&B, came into full fruition on its third proper release, 2005’s ragged masterpiece, 'Let it Bloom.'

The tunes on 'Let it Bloom' are a trashy mishmash of musical styles, and exude a sort of slimy charisma, the way they wrap catchy hooks and singable melodies in a sort of chain mail of dissonance. Each song exists as its own freaky entity, evoking just about every rock and roll era and genre without being in any way cheaply derivative. And the surrealistically profane lyrics only add to the sleazy charm of the songs. ‘Let it Bloom’ swims in sumptuous vintage sounds, so much so it’s temporally disorienting at times, although always refreshing.

For 'Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo (The Brave of the New World),' the band’s inaugural live offering from Vice Records, the Black Lips ventured into Tijuana, a town that bears distinction for the band as “the last hedonist haven.” And heady hedonism, apparently, is what the Black Lips live show is all about, if past tales about the boys playing guitars with their genitals and making creatively vile use of urine are any indication. Such patently juvenile antics, of course, threaten to undermine the musical maturity evinced on 'Let it Bloom.' But I digress.

So scuttlebutt has it that the Black Lips gig in Tijuana managed to surpass the band’s legendary live debauchery, featuring as it did bathroom drug deals, hooker autoeroticism and a hapless Mariachi band playing witness to the wanton mischief. Oh, and then there is the music.

On 'Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo,' these self-described “flower punks” draw principally from 'Let it Bloom' and 'We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow' to create an adrenalized aural assault. The songs sound tequila-soaked but ebulliently energized in the way that only testosterone-infused barely-out-of-their-teens can play them.

It may not be the best live album ever, as the Black Lips naively proclaim it will be, but that’s only because we need a DVD to fully capture the raunchy revelry. Live albums always need a visual complement, even if most of them lack that.

The Black Lips may seem to be vaulting onto a bandwagon already overcrowded with garage rock acts. But the Lips offer a more brashly novel approach to the genre; the band carves a far rougher soundscape than that of some of the sleeker, more packaged garage bands like The Strokes or even The Hives.

If you’re new to the Black Lips, then this live album alone will not make you a convert. However, if you purchase 'Los Valientes' along with the exquisitely raw 'Let it Bloom,' chances are you will fall in love with the Lip’s grittily graceful take on garage punk.

© Alison Ross
Reproduced with permission

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