Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand (Vice 2009)

Black Lips toe the line between chaotically unpredictable and comfortably predictable with wild abandon. You should expect them to snarl, piss in your mouth and get their clothes off, especially if it isn’t appropriate. Their recent gigs in India resulted in nationwide scorn at these Georgia-based punk rockers. Maybe it was excessive in a country that is still struggling to reconcile its traditional values and cosmopolitan future but maybe that’s why the world needs Black Lips. Musically, you can rely on them to produce wild thumping lo-fi 60s garage punk-influenced badass songs that all reduce the listener to a sweating spitting headbanging disciple of the Lip-i-festo, counting 200 million thousand strong as their legion, or something. The new album, then, is a rip-roaring feat of derring-do, similar in feel, tone and recklessness to ‘Good Bad Not Evil’ and containing catchy snarling uptempo 3 minute pop songs that veer wildly to strange proclamations (‘Big Black Baby Jesus of Today’) to paranoid delusional drug-induced ramblings (‘Drugs’). There’s also their tender side, that still moment of the night where the Lips reflect on the chaos trail they’ve blazed and deliver undeniably moving yet slightly unhinged slowies in the guise of love songs, which is where the sweet and tender ‘I’ll Be With You’ comes in, skipping along with a 50s ‘Earth Angel’ vibe. You can imagine George McFly trying to impress his future wife to this one. ‘Big Black Baby Jesus of Today’ has the spit and sawdust aggression, beating you with pool cues and slow threatening slurred lyrics over thudding guitars. Influences 13th Floor Elevators and New York Dolls prevail on these 14 snarling lo-fi mumble songs all about fucking, drugging, punching and loving- so base and simple, so primal and urgent, all fierce and pure in their catchiness. The guitars all fire in that scattershot post-flower-power garage sound, berating the listeners with their rhythms. Ultimately, Black Lips are a con, they play the punk game, but underneath they’re sweet and sound and loveable rogues and that’s all you want in a 200 million thousand strong legion of fighters all flying your flag. More of the same but when it sounds this good and this powerful and this headnoddingly infectious, I could suffer more albums in the same vein. Never lose your edge boys; never hit the big studios and never turn the fuzz pedals off. Keep it going, take my heart.


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