Review: Black Lips – “Underneath The Rainbow”

Release: 3/2014

Black Lips, my friends, the godfathers of this website, the band that started it all for us. And for thousands of others that have partaken in the pleasure of the Black Lips experience over the course of the last fifteen years. That’s no easy feat for any band; though there have been many a stimulating garage/punk band in rock ‘n roll’s history, Black Lips have gone from DIY Atlanta naughty boys to Vice’s most prized musical possession. And this wasn’t over night. They toured the world relentlessly for years, maybe a couple times over, before getting any ‘legitimate’ attention from the press. Once that came, some of their old time fanatics abandoned their former favorite sons on the basis of their new found hip major label, but in came so many more others, who like us, never heard or seen anyone like ’em.  Call that musical naivety, if you will, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere. That brings us to Underneath The Rainbow or not really.

I’ll call this their eighth album – for those unfamiliar with these guys, I’ll recap real quick: ’03, ’04, ’05, one album per year, each one funner than the previous. Then came the ultimate live/studio LP (they fooled us for years, maybe never fooled Jay Reatard, though) Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo. That was ’07. Later that year came their Vice debut, Good Bad Not Evil, an introduction for the masses. Their gunky, excitable style still very much in tact, they popped out 200 Million Thousand in 2009. Two years later they got Mark Ronson to work with them in the studio and eat some raw meat. That was 2011’s Arabia Mountain. We really enjoy that one like the rest before it. Stained and pristine. Black Lips just doing their thing as they’ve always done.

Sure, it’s a little early to be writing about a Black Lips album before it’s released. This ain’t nothin new for nuts like us that make the trip to NY to see these guys every time Boston’s not on the itinerary. For the best live band in the world – there I said it and I’m not alone in my view – a blase record is not gonna stop us from appreciating these dudes. Underneath The Rainbow is quite Black Lips. No one’s going to be confusing the voices of Cole, Jared, Joe, and Ian for anyone else. The instrumentation is trademark BL as well: distorted, fuzzy, dying guitars, big bass sound some of the time, Joe’s drumming. You know. As I listen over and over again to this new batch of songs, I find myself searching for something that the Lips have previously always stuffed deep into my ear drums. Maybe I have always taken for granted the immediacy of Black Lips songwriting. For the first time I feel almost as if a decent number of ’em were crafted while the band was on a creative vacation.

“Waiting” is just like Arabia‘s “The Lie,” with its skeleton guitar lead, “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” is a genericy synthesis of the bells and whistles of Side B of that same album. Then there’s “Do the Vibrate” and “Dog Years,” that revisit some of the band’s rougher/punk inclinations, yet just don’t have that ole rawness that might freak out some arena attendin’ Black Keys fans. The bluesier, southern rock that the Lips have spoken of as inspiration for this record shows through most notably on the fine first taster “Boys in the Wood” and album opener “Drive By Buddy”. Both tunes have really catchy choruses, not sounding rushed or put together in any noticeable way. My jam for this record is “Funny,” the Mr. Driver of 20-14. Cole’s always had a crazy way about him, the way he sings, plays guitar, acts, etc. I’ve met him a few times now, he’s the man…a catalyst that gets the juices flowing in the dullest of spirits. So ya, “Funny” is exactly that – eccentric, a “banger for the club” as Ian might say, with some real real lines, maybe the most accessible song on the album in its irreverence i.e. COME SUCK SOME MILK FROM MY TITTIES.

Where do I go from here? I love Black Lips and you know it, I’m not counting this album out just yet. I’m still longing for a propa “Italian Sexual Frustation” in a post “Hippys” society. But hey it’s only March 3rd and all them Spin / Pitchfork ‘writers’ are gonna miss the mark in some way shape or form. Go see Lips and buy all their records, ya nerds! I don’t know what I’m talking about either, ask me more soon. Or I’ll just tell ya right here on Kids Like You and Me. Bad Kids.

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BL Website: http://black-lips.com/
Stream of Underneath The Rainbowhttp://noisey.vice.com/blog/stream-the-first-black-lips-lp-in-three-years-two-weeks-before-release

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.

CD Review: First Four EPs [2010]


Band:
OFF!
Release: 11/2011
Label: Vice Records

1. “Black Thoughts” – A-
2. “Darkness” – B+
3. “I Don’t Belong” – A-
4. “Upside Down” – B+
5. “Poison City” –  B+
6. “Now I’m Pissed” – B
7. “Killing Away” – B+
8. “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” – A-
9. “Panic Attack” – B
10. “Crawl” – B-
11. “Blast” – B+
12. “Rat Trap” – B-
13. “Fuck People” –  B
14. “Full of Shit” – B
15. “Broken” – B
16. “Peace In Hermosa” – B

Comments: This is the kind of record that you simply can’t review while doing something else. If you decide to go the multi-tasking route, which I did, you might just find yourself listening to the sixth track of the record while you’re under the impression that you’re still on the second. For long-time followers of punk rock, such a perception is child’s play. At any rate, I haven’t heard many hardcore punk songs…sad, I know. OFF! is the latest band of Keith Morris, a rather prolific person in hardcore punk (front-man of Black Flag, Circle Jerks). That’s that. The songs on this record are very good. You can tell these guys have been around for a while. Loads of recycled chord progressions and stuff like that. That’s kind of expected in any genre of music, but these kind of things seem to particularly stick out on here.

Grade: B (86)

Garage Explosion – Excellent New Documentary!

Watching this documentary, you might feel like you are reading this website. There are shots of living and deceased (literally/not literally) KLYAM regulars like Black Lips, Jay Reatard, King Khan & BBQ Show as well as shots and interviews with other great musicians and performers like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Davila 666, The Dirtbombs, The Magic Kids, Hunx and His Punx and Box Elders. What is garage rock? For Jay Reatard, it was about grossing people out. For Joe Bradley, “it’s about keeping it simple, stupid. That’s what we’re [Black Lips] are trying to do. It’s about fun and entertainment.”

VICE goes around interviewing some of the most notable and downright prolific names in garagerock. Part 1 examines the scenes in Memphis and Detroit.

Part 1: http://www.vbs.tv/watch/vbs-music-specials/garage-explosion-part-1-of-3

Part 2http://www.vbs.tv/watch/vbs-music-specials/garage-explosion-part-2-of-3

A Wild Man (Grows Up) – NY Times Article On Vice Founder

SHANE SMITH, a founder of Vice, the streetwise, testosterone-fueled culture and fashion magazine, still chugs canned American beer. He still listens to Bad Brains. And he still favors tattered Vans skateboard shoes and black T-shirts. That much is the same.

Shane Smith, one of the founders of Vice magazine, on the Rocks Off concert boat with members of the band The Black Lips.

It is everything else that has changed.

READ THE REST!