Best Of 2011 – Glen’s Favorite Albums


1. Black Lips
Arabia Mountain – My excitement for this album grew steadily once the news came out that they were working on one in early 2010. The original release date set for “when school gets back in” was pushed back once Ronson joined as co-producer. As we all know by now, the band had a delightful time working with him. So it’s no coincidence that Arabia is filled with some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while. The sound production is not as muddy and psychedelic as the band’s previous effort 200 Million Thousand; instead, it’s clean and clear. The songs themselves cross the kind of rock and roll terrain that the Lips have always found themselves in, including but not limited to: clangy, jangly, country, punk. This stuff is addicting (for people with an ear for it like me) and tough to remove from the record player. I guess that’s a quality that the best album of the year should possess. 


2. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread – This is another one that I was counting the days until release. Ty’s last record Melted received an ‘honorable mention’ in my Best of 2010, but would have comfortably cracked the Top 5 if I redid my list a few months later. Goodbye Bread was a quintessential summer listen and still holds the test of time as this part of the country is freezing over. The thing that Ty does so well (and has always done so well) is arranging his songs. There’s optimal fuzz, hard-pounding drums, and a lingering bass line in nearly every song at some point and a lot of it is unexpected and fresh. I love the opening of “You Make the Sun Fry,” and the ever so crunchy chorus in “My Head Explodes,” in particular. Goodbye Bread affirms Ty’s status as one of the most talented song writers in modern rock and roll. At the least, it goes to show that noisy relatively straight-forward garage isn’t all the dude is about. 


3. Atlas Sound
Parallax – Last year (as I just said above) I made the folly of overlooking some records. Another one of them was Halcyon Digest. Sure, it was among my Top 10, but I didn’t really appreciate as much in 2010 as I should have. With Parallax, I gave it several listens before reviewing it and over the course of listening the real beauty of it really came out. It’s mainly a light affair with several streaks of brilliance that some could dub ‘experimental’ or ‘odd’, but to me is just as pop as anything typically labeled that. Bradford knows catchy better than most. The by product of this is a mass of songs that are inspirational and healing. 


4. The Beets
 – Let The Poison Out – The Beets are one of those bands that I regret not getting more into earlier on in my KLYAM career. After seeing them open for No Age at Wellesley College back in April 2009, I failed to do significant follow up research. Well, now I’d say I’m fairly well versed on the Beets; all the credit to them for infectious releases and superb live performances. Let The Poison Out works so well because it’s just so hard to not be hooked on the Beets raw rock, pop, n’ roll . It makes me want to start pounding on some drums while blasting it loudly. “Doing As I Do” and “I Think I Might Have Built A Horse” are sing-alongs like none other. 


5. Mikal Cronin
 – Mikal Cronin – You can tell this guy has spent some quality time hanging around Ty Segall. Not to say he hasn’t spent quality time with other musicians. The Moonhearts are nice. Well anyway, this album really captivated me as it fits in perfectly on a scale of Ty and Thee Oh Sees. Like those folks’ records, Mikal Cronin is quite instantaneously hooky (with like two exceptions, but those are still real good). Picking favorites is a challenge. I love “Situation” a great deal, because right from the get-go it is extremely fun. The San Fran rock ‘n roll region had quite a 2011.

Honorable Mentions

Shannon and the Clams – Sleep Talk
The Orwells – Remember When
Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Natural Child 1971
Mark Sultan Whatever I Want
The Hussy Cement Tomb Mind Control
Davila 666 Tan Bajo

Spidey’s Curse…

Yessir, here is the comic book Old King Cole Younger was referring to in the new classic “Spidey’s Curse” from the Black Lips’s recent LP and KLYAM favorite Arabia Mountain. Spider-Man and Power-Pack was a 1984 issue distributed in sex education classes to teach the youngsters about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.

This website is a great resource for infomation on the comic: http://www.politedissent.com/archives/982 

Here are the lyrics to Spidey:

Peter Parker’s life is so much darker than the book I read
‘Cause he was defenseless, so defenseless when he was a kid
It’s your body, no one’s body, but your’s anyways
So Peter Parker don’t let him mark ya, it’s so much darker
Don’t let him touch ya, he don’t have to stay!
Don’t fill a spider up with dread

Spidey’s got powers, he takes all of the cowards
And he kills them dead
But when he was younger, an elder among him messed him in the head
So Peter Parker don’t let him mark ya, it’s so much darker
Don’t let him touch ya, he don’t have to stay!

The teacher looked at everyone with a PSA
She saw that our hearts were gone
She saw that in everyone!

Peter Parker’s life is so much darker
Better tell him, man
‘Cause it’s your body, no one’s body, but your’s anyway

So Peter Parker don’t him mark ya, it’s so much darker
Don’t let him touch ya, he don’t have to stay!
Don’t fill a spider up with dread
Don’t fill a spider up with dread
Don’t fill a spider up with dread

(Dude, they are conjuring up those demons. Basically, they’re taking spells out of that book. Or they are taking demons out of that book and working it into a song that basically conjures up these demons, man. Oh dude, it’s way insane. Dude, trip out on this!)

Dude Trip Out On This! KLYAM Interviews Black Lips’ Joe Bradley

“Black Lips live and ready, how ya doing Lauren?”

The Black Lips’ drummer Joe Bradley greeted me over the phone in a Southern drawl as the band traveled by van to Boise, Idaho for its tour in support of its newest record. As it has been deeply emphasized in recent music publications, the Atlanta flower-punks set out to record Arabia Mountain with help from Grammy decorated producer Mark Ronson. The result? A lo-fi, bittersweet compilation of catchy punk songs with pop hooks.  Lyrically speaking, the content ranges from inspirational theme songs to tales of Spiderman’s alleged childhood molestation.

Kids Like You And Me spoke with Bradley to discuss the climax of project Arabia Mountain: The album release after months of dedication, and the resulting 24/7 party that is The Black Lips’ current support tour.

Kids Like You And Me: So first of all, how is the tour going? 

Joe Bradley: The tour’s going great, much like the past two months in key locations across the globe. It’s been a party every night, and we’ve been getting a decent response from the audiences. You can’t complain when you’re enjoying your lifestyle.

KLYAM: Prior to the release Arabia Mountain, there was the inevitable album leak and you guys played songs off the new record at live shows. Now that the album is readily available to the fans, have you noticed a change at the shows now versus before, when the album wasn’t out yet?

JB: It would be hard to have a conclusive observation of that. We’re still playing a new market, including songs that we hadn’t played before the album came out. But I imagine that when audiences have access to the new material, even in the two weeks before the drop date when the album is leaked, it allows them to become more familiar with the songs and perhaps enjoy them even more during the live set.

KLYAM: Did you guys intentionally play a lot of yet-to-be released songs at live shows before the album dropped?

JB: We’ve never been a band that gets together and practices. We’ve probably only practiced about 20 times in the past ten or eleven years we’ve been around. So we try the new songs at soundcheck, and if we think we can play them well enough to perform then we will. There’s always room for improvement, but that’s what the live show is for.

It’s good to get used to playing your new material. As far as doling it out, we don’t wanna play all new songs. When you go to see a band you wanna hear the songs you know. So we try to get that mix in there.

KLYAM: Your last album was well received by several media outlets, but interviews with you guys have indicated that the band wasn’t satisfied with 200 Million Thousand as a whole. What sparked these sentiments? 

JB: I’ll go on record saying that I love 200 Million Thousand. I don’t know if that opinion is shared across the board, but I think there’s some really great songs on that album. Sure, the production might have been a bit hurried along, and we may have put it out before it was really done…but I think parts of that album are really memorable. I’m not going to slag something that we worked on, even if it wasn’t the best that it could possibly be, I think it’s a great album. I mean, “Starting Over” is a great song.

KLYAM: With all the extra time spent recording Arabia Mountain, was the ultimate goal to become better musicians or to make the album more commercially successful?

JB: There weren’t any media goals, well, media-conscious goals. Going back to your last question, we had kind of rushed to put out 200 Million Thousand. For this album we wanted to be sure that it was the best it could possibly be before we put it out. We didn’t put a deadline on it. It took four recording sessions to get 33 songs recorded, and then narrow those down to 16.

We have four song writers, so we just kept writing songs and recording until everyone in the band and at the record label was satisfied. They wanted us to work with a producer, so we asked Mark Ronson and he was totally down to do it. He brought a great 80s-pop sensibility to the studio and has a great ear for sound preferences, like instrument tones. He has a vast knowledge on old microphones and… just knew exactly what he wanted us to sound like. With all those elements together, the final product was really consistent and everyone was happy with it.

KLYAM: What was the most significant input that Mark Ronson had on the album?

JB: There’s a track on the album titled “Mister Driver“. Originally it started out as as punk song, and Mark came in and said it wasn’t going to work. So he had Cole do more choppy guitar strokes and sing the chorus in a different way. He also had Ian tune his guitar down, and I came up with a new drum beat. The formula for the song completely changed.

KLYAM: Other members of your the band have expressed the desire to achieve commercial success on a larger scale with the release of this album. Do you think this approach affects the art of the overall writing process? 

JB: That’s always going to be a possibility, but was it a conscious effort on our part? No, I don’t think so. If you review anything from our back catalog you’ll find various mixes of everything we still do today, and that includes pop songs. A pop song doesn’t have to be machine made and massed produced. It can just be something that’s catchy, gets stuck in your head, and is easy to listen to. We like to keep it simple. One of our slogans from back in the day was “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Don’t overthink things. Don’t try harder than you really need to, because then you’re just wasting energy when it’s all going to come out alright. We don’t try to second guess ourselves either. I don’t think a commercially successful album was our main intent when writing these songs.

KLYAM: Do you have a preconceived vision of how you want songs to sound before writing and recording?

JB: Sometimes songs need to start out as a melody in your head, or you may have some really cool ideas for lyrics. Honestly, trying to force songwriting is difficult. I prefer the method of letting various parts of the composition come together at their own will. There’s a lot of times when you can have all of your music recorded but you’re stuck on the lyrics, so you’ll end up singing nonsense sounds or made up words over the music itself, and from that you can achieve some type of cohesive lyrics. It’s like reaching into a pile of goo and pulling out a diamond. It could happen! We don’t have a particular method of songwriting, it goes either way.

KLYAM: Is there a lot of contribution and input from the other members when you write your own songs? 

JB: That, too, is on a song to song basis. There are various songs we’ve worked on together by writing different parts, but occasionally one of us will write all of the parts to a song and then show the other members how to play it. Everyone has their own touch and puts their own feel into it. Everyone contributes at least something to every one of our songs. As a general rule of thumb, people can tell who wrote the song based on who sings it. This isn’t the case when we write songs together, or when someone writes a song and someone else ends up singing it.

KLYAM: You play guitar, bass, and keyboards in addition to drums. Did you try to utilize all of these talents in the studio? 

JB: I played bass, guitar, and several different organs on this album in addition to the drumming. On “The Lie” I do finger-picking on an acoustic guitar. I’ve played brass instruments on past recordings of ours, but I don’t think I did anything like that on this new album.

KLYAM: The bands that you guys play with seem to possess the same aesthetic value as Black Lips. Is there a particular act that sticks out that seemed to best compliment you guys for a particular tour? 

JB: The Spits, The King Khan & BBQ Show as well as King Khan & the Shrines, The Demon’s Claws… that’s the old family right there. But there are some new bands coming up right now. I don’t know if they’re necessarily complimentary, but the band we’re on tour with now is Cerebral Ballzy. They’re this hardcore punk band from New York. It’s more contrasting than complimentary, but I think it’s great. We always like to bring out new support acts that won’t necessarily highlight or accent what we’re trying to do. We want to offer some diversity to audiences, but also something enjoyable and familiar.

KLYAM: Is there anyone you really want to tour with that you haven’t?

JB: I can’t really think of anything… we usually end up playing with- Well wait, Ian’s saying King Tuff. Our buddies Gentlemen Jessie & His Men did a tour with King Tuff about a year and half or two years ago. They said it was really cool.

KLYAM: How does the band decide upon which new songs to add to its usual set-list? From your most recent tours, you have seemed to enjoy playing “Family Tree,” “Modern Art,” “Go Out and Get It,” “Raw Meat,” and “Dumpster Dive”.

JB: It depends on how often we’ve played a song. Sometimes it depends on what the audience is looking like. If it’s a punk audience, we might skew our setlist to be a little more upbeat. If there are more indie rock, artsy fartsy types of people we might play some of the weirder songs we have catalogued. Or, just whatever we damn well feel like, really.

KLYAM: What’s your favorite song to play live from the bands’ current discography? 

JB: I like to play “Dumpster Dive” a lot. “Take Me Home (Back to Boone)” off of Let it Bloom is fun to play too. It’s fast, and gets people dancing.

—–

With that, the interview rounded off, leaving me with a newfound perspective on the Black Lips’ approach to band growth.

For more than a decade, the Black Lips have built a cult-like following without relying on insincere, label-generated tactics that some artists use to build a fan base. Known for its unpredictability, the band might play a relatively tame set one night only to  have members at the next show vomiting, urinating, and brandishing their dicks like swords. In a similar fashion, The Black Lips approached recording their last album with little time and editing, then took ample time to meticulously perfect Arabia Mountain.

Ronson’s highly-publicized affiliation with the album is warrantable. The songs admittedly have a better sound quality than past productions, but the fine tuning doesn’t overwhelm the album. The jarring stylistic quirks that personify The Black Lips still shine through and characterize the album.

The relatively unprecedented mainstream hype surrounding Black Lips in the wake of its new release might prompt some changes. The band might venture into a realm of popularity that spans beyond underground music scenes. And honestly? Good for them. Whether you’ve permanently inked “Panama City Beach 3003” to your body or are just seeing the Black Lips for the first time on the cover of Spin Magazine, know this: No bullshit, this band is the real deal.

Arabia Mountain‘s mainstream success might be the key to penetrating the hearts and creative minds of kids who need to hear a band as gritty and influential as The Black Lips. Diehard Black Lips fans needn’t worry about what these guys will do next. They’re still acting like the Bad Kids they’ve been all along…at this point in the game, they’ve just perfected the art of doing so.

LP Review: Arabia Mountain [2011]

Band: Black Lips
Release: 6/2011
Label: Vice

Part Two: HERE
Part Three: HERE

A1. “Family Tree” – A++
A2. “Modern Art” – A++
A3. “Spidey’s Curse” – A++
A4. “Mad Dog” – A++
A5. “Mr. Driver” – A++
A6. “Bicentennial Man” – A+
A7. “Go Out and Get It” – A-
A8. “Raw Meat” – A+
B1. “Bone Marrow” – A
B2. “The Lie” – A
B3. “Time” – A
B4. “Dumpster Dive” – A
B5. “New Direction” – A+
B6. “Noc-A-Homa” – A+
B7. “Don’t Mess Up My Baby” – A++
B8. “You Keep On Running” – B+

Grade: A (96)

An Early Take On Black Lips “Arabia Mountain”

Out June 7 - Vice Records!


Arabia Mountain
explores new and exciting sonic territories for the Lips, a band that’s consistently been keen on experimentation and pop sensibility. From the inception of “Family Tree,” Arabia Mountain shows some return to pre-200 Million Thousand form in the way of clangy guitar tones. It is arguably the band’s catchiest garage/pop song recorded since Good Bad Not Evil. Cole’s vocals aren’t lost in a sea of noise and rhythm and nor are Joe’s drums. Mark Ronson and the boys found a really incredible way of making this song structured, but still fucked up. Speaking of that, the Lips were right when they said this would be their most accessible work, yet also be really weird. Ian’s guitar solo in “Family Tree” ain’t prime time and in general his guitar solos really have never been mind-blowing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Speaking of mind-blowing, the Lips had quite an experience at the Dali Museum and captured that quite well on “Modern Art“. This song is another fast one, in the same spirit as “Family Tree”. Included in “Modern Art” is a singing saw and xylophone, of which both can be heard during the chorus. It’s little nooks and crannies like these that are strikingly noticeable early on the album. But just as things seem to be moving right along, we are hit with “Spidey’s Curse,” a three chord take on the marginalized molestation of Peter Parker. “So Peter Parker, don’t let him mark ya…don’t let him touch ya. He don’t have to stay!” Just like classic three-chord sing-a-longs “Dirty Hands” and “I’ll Be With You,” “Spidey’s Curse” is…classic. It took a little while to perfect in the studio (as evidenced in the Creators Project vid that took a look at the making of Arabia), but man did it come out right. On audio display is Cole’s finest songwriting; furthermore, his innocent delivery of such a dark topic is priceless. The outro conversation at the end that leads into “Mad Dog” is perfect. “Mad Dog” — you can tell from the title and some of the lyrics — speaks to the rhythym of backmasking and subliminal messaging. The guitar tones stand out as does the trumpet, the sporadic uttering of “r ew ohw r ew”…Kesha’s “We R Who We R” backwards. Concerned with the listener possibly being consumed by evil spirits, Cole asks “y’all Right?” “Mr. Driver” is an early favorite of mine as well. I love Cole’s delivery and the WOOOOHs. The song itself might be the only one on here that doesn’t clear the dance-floor instantly, waiting until the first chorus to do that. “Bicentennial Man” sounds different from the first six and that has to do with the fact that it was produced by Lockett Pundt, not Ronson. It’s of a lower fidelity… straight forward garage pop along the lines (instrumentally and such) of  Joe’s non-album classics like “In and Out”. There’s even a guitar/screaming freak out (as I like to call ’em) that harkens us back to Black Lips circa early-mid 2000s. The surf/summery “Go Out and Get It” is real out of place on this record. Again, no one said this thing wasn’t going to be weird. Singing about “getting gold” amidst eating raw meat and tripping out on ketamine sure ain’t ordinary! It’s not their best song and the irony is that for what it is, it doesn’t sound up to speed (in terms of production facility and quality) with any of the Ronson cuts. “Raw Meat” is a brief return to Ronson production and it’s pretty obvious. This song has been kicking around in the band’s set since winter 2009/2010 and did undergo slight slight modification in studio. An extra “oh baby” or two has been added to the mix and the “whistling” part sounds more like a singing saw or theremin than something capable of coming out of a human mouth. “Bone Marrow” increasingly builds in terms of catchiness and features the saw. It is a trip down oldies lane for sure. “The Lie” stuck out to me on first listen. I love its pace and, of course, the ending freak out a la “Bicentennial Man.” This freak out is even better. Also, you can hear the infamous human skull that Cole used in studio to coagulate crazy tones. “Time” penned and sung principally by Ian is rock and roll. That’ s all. Really groovy and twangy, just the way Ian likes it. “Dumpster Dive” is a truck stop country tune: “I haven’t seen some good trash since I don’t know when!” It’s a true hobo’s anthem. It’s one of their favorite songs to play live, I’ve noticed. There’s some toy piano on record. “New Direction” is a return to where “Mr. Driver” left off in terms of production. It’s pace and styling is similar to “Modern Art”. Easily heard vocals, clangy guitars, steady drum beats. You know the deal. There’s not much not to be impressed with. “Noc-A-Homa” is the Lips big ’60s revival rock ‘n roll, dance, and have fun kind of thing. Far more “Louie Louie” than Back From The Grave. Flower punk. From the looks of the title and the opening notes, you probably wouldn’t think methamphetimines and nicorette would be a matter of discussion in “Don’t Mess Up My Baby,” but as you all well know…anything is possible. In a long line of screwed up closers and oddball songs — “Hope Jazz,” “Lion With Wings,” “Hello Mr. Postman,” “I Saw God” — comes “You Keep On Running” a subdued track that sounds like a bunch of dudes in need of some kind of closure. They do tend to expend a lot of energy on the great majority of their records, so maybe it is only natural for them to end with something like this.

I entertained the prospect of judging this record against the band’s other five. That seems a bit silly at this point. They’ll all about equally messed up. This one just came out more polished and layered. Still the Black Lips, the Black Lips we’ve known and loved for years.

Black Lips – “New Direction” !!!

“New Direction,” here it is! The third track we’ve gotten to preview from their June 7th LP Arabia Mountain. What really stands out to me about it (and this will probably stand true for most of the album) is that it sounds like a refined combination of their older non-album twangy, noisy, country guitar work and the cleanliness of vocals and drums that we first got a chance to hear on Good Bad Not Evil

DOWNLOAD: http://www.mediafire.com/?phcoo9fphffis54