Mark Ronson’s parps can’t spoil the riotous dumb fun

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Album Review: Black Lips - 'Arabia Mountain'

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Album Review: Black Lips – ‘Arabia Mountain’

It sounds like an ’80s buddy cop movie. Him, the handsome superproducer for whom the word ‘dapper’ was invented. Them, the drug-addled, stale-semen-smelling garage rock-tards from Georgia. “You’re putting us on assignment together?” barks [a]Mark Ronson[/a] at his commanding officer. “OK with me, boss,” says [a]Black Lip[/a]s’ singer Jared Swilley. That’s not quite how the strangest musical hook-up of 2011 happened, we expect, but you get the point.

It’s a matter of no little wonderment how this pants-forsaken four-piece bring such joy and freshness to their fuzz-toned debauches. Worryingly, their last record – [b]‘200 Million Thousand’[/b] – seemed to be running low on that devil-may-care spirit. Though by no means a disaster, they needed to hit back, and [b]‘Arabia Mountain’[/b] doesn’t disappoint.

[b]‘Family Tree’[/b] is a rollicking, leaky banger of an opening track, hair combed with engine grease and zany sax parping away in the background – chalk that one up to Ronson, then. Speaking of whom, the arch swinger’s touch on the record is apparent but surprisingly discreet, his trademark brass applied only sparingly and a hint of Theremin bringing surfy, [b]‘Good Vibrations’[/b] overtones to [b]‘Modern Art’[/b] and [b]‘Bone Marrow’[/b].

The former’s wreckheads-in-an-art-gallery theme perfectly sums up the band’s class-clown appeal (“[i]K-hole at the Dali/Seeing the unknown[/i]”), and is one of their best flat-out tunes since [b]‘O Katrina’[/b]. [b]‘Spidey’s Curse’[/b] talks about Spider-Man getting touched up as a kid and sounds like [a]The Beach Boys[/a] – not the sacrosanct, tortured-genius version beloved of [a]Animal Collective[/a], but the feckless thrill-seekers behind ‘Surfin’ USA’.

[b]‘Go Out And Get It’[/b]’s lyrics advocate a common-sense approach to fun (“[i]Ice cream at the corner store, you get two for just a dollar more[/i]”) and the wicked [b]‘Dumpster Dive’[/b] takes the band’s trashy aesthetic to literal new lows with a charming tale of rooting in bins. The chorus is pure [b]‘Beggars Banquet’[/b]-era Stones; a peach.

Even the bad-vibes tracks are more fun this time around –[b]‘Mr Driver’[/b] comes on like a creeping dose of the fear and [b]‘You Keep On Running’[/b] sounds like Jeffrey Lebowski’s worst acid flashbacks. But even more miraculous is how the band’s idiot-savant shtick hasn’t worn thin over time, possibly because it isn’t a shtick at all. Truly, these guys are God’s own creatures.

Alex Denney

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