Album Review : Black Lips

200 Million Thousand

Facts about this album:

* ‘200 Million Thousand’ is Black Lips’ fifth album.

* The Black Lips claim one of their songs was once in the running to soundtrack a Tesco advert.

* Black Lips are Cole Alexander, Jared Swilley, Ian Saint Pé and Joe Bradley.

Album review:

There’s a video on the web of Black Lips’ recent gig in Chennai, India. Having pulled out all their standard live stops – cartwheels, feedback, intra-band kissing and genitalia – the Atlantan garage-rockers are seen backstage post-show, seemingly surprised that subcontinental authorities might’ve been offended, shortly before escaping through a fire-exit to avoid a spell in an Indian prison. This typical display of nudity and naivety is part of what makes Black Lips so great – it’s often seemed as though their music is really only accidental to their charm. Since they formed as a gang of school-age delinquents, they’ve spent 10 years surviving on an almost maniacal combination of enthusiasm and fearlessness. The flipside of this relentless, rambunctious drive is ‘200 Million Thousand’. Recorded in a couple of weeks in a former art gallery in Atlanta, it’s full of ideas that are executed in a way that’s raw, alive and lo-fi. However, it’s also surprisingly subdued for a group whose gigs feature fireworks and band members pissing in each other’s mouths. Sure, there are songs about drugs and hookers, sloppy hip-hop pastiches (‘The Drop I Hold’) and samples of young children evangelicising the benefits of LSD, but generally breakneck punk-rock thrills are replaced by something far doomier.It’s a reminder that for all their antics, they’re a band with darkness in their past: death (guitarist Ben Eberbaugh was killed in a car crash in 2002), poverty and a punishing work ethic dating from the early days when they’d work dead-end jobs for a few months to then quit and go out on the road again. Their energy can’t be restrained. Even the fact that ‘200…’ sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well can’t blunt the trebly pop of ‘Short Fuse’ or ‘Body Combat’’s thrillingly unevolved garage – and the band’s swamp-pop sound means that most of the hooks are insidious rather than cartwheeling and peeing on each other. Yes, there are jokes and doo-woppy moments of light-heartedness, but this is a soupy, stoned, distressed-sounding album at odds with the Lips’ image as the world’s premier party band.

Pat Long


More on this artist:
Black Lips NME Artist Page
Black Lips MySpace