donderdag 22 mei 2014

Underneath the rainbows. Black Lips

If there ever was a storm called Black Lips, it has died and petered out to a friendly indie/garagy gust of wind that is refreshing and delicious to stand in. The guy standing in front is still trying to look mean, but the rest is your run of the mill neighbour wearing a leather jacket on his Saturday night out. The red glow reminds me of a The Romantics cover from long ago, but that cover was clearly a lot cleaner than this one. I faintly remember a previous album of Black Lips, 'Arabia mountain', which was a lot louder and more exuberant.

Black Lips is around for a while. Formed in 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia the band started its output with two singles in 2002, on the interestingly called record label Die Slaughterhaus. It's first album was released in 2003 and called like the band itself. Cole Alexander (vocals, guitar), Jared Swilley (vocals, bass) and Joe Bradley (vocals, drums) are around since day one, Ian Saint Pé (lead guitar) joined in 2004, after the original guitarist died in 2002 and his shorter term replacements had left the band.

Black Lips is a band that plays around with American music between 1956 and 1977. Listening to some of the songs it is clear that they could have been sung by The Shangri-Lahs or The Ronettes. With that comes the poppy side of punk in the form of Blondie and the attitude of The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. This all leads to very melodic songs that have these rough edges that disqualifies them instantly as hits, but qualifies them instantly as faves for the alternative rock scene. At least, that is the effect Underneath the rainbows has with me.

Underneath the rainbows is a lot darker than 'Arabia mountain'. That album has a poppier feel and a lighter 60s pop/rock/garage sound. Black Lips certainly has come up with a darker sounding album. With a darker form of psychedelia added to the mix, that reminds me of The Black Angels, without the trippy parts. If The Black Angels is on LSD, Black Lips is on heroin, where they were on laughing gas in 2011. The moods are totally different between the two bands. All sweetness is discarded. Even the 'Come out and play' reference to The Offspring gets a kick in the guts, as does the 'Teenage kicks'/'One way or another' chord progression in the song 'Dorner party'. After the "whoa" scream even Dave Davies gets a nod in the guitar solo.

The video to 'Boys in the wood' has everything in it to have it banned from any tv station in the U.S. and many other countries, but at the same time shouldn't be shocking any more either. But it's dark and shows many downsides to life, no matter how tongue in cheek it may have been made.

'Drive by buddy' opens Underneath the rainbows. It is a rocking song, with rockabilly undertones, that is as retro as retro comes where rock and roll is concerned. In that way Black Lips is a very straightforward band. Nothing excitingly new happening. Some punky elements are added in the way of singing, but when we really get down to it, we are talking about a loud form of country music here. This basis is there always at the heart of Underneath the rainbows.

Things change when we contemplate the attitude with which the music on this album is played. The snotty noses, cuts and bruises and dirty fingernails. Some snarls and an I-Don't-care-what-my-parents-think look on Black Lips' members' faces. Of course these guys may be parents themselves by now, so all this doesn't add up any more really.

This is the time to stop rationalising, because Black Lips has produced an album that for the most part is great fun to listen to. The punky garage rock is of the right sort, varied enough to keep grabbing my attention. Most songs are short statements with influences from Johnny Cash's first songs to The Undertones, from Toy Dolls to Ghetto Ways, even The Joe Jackson Band references can be found. It's all here. Where 'Boys in the wood' really stands out, because of the bluesy rhythm underneath this loud garage rock song with a great chorus.

The sound is dense also. Tightly packed where not a lot is allowed to escape from. Mean sounding guitars play the lead role on Underneath the rainbows, with some short, rapidly fired solo notes taking the front stage every once in a while. In the meantime watch out for that dirty little organ in the background. This certainly is a party element worth mentioning as long as you are on the look out for it. Surf sounds are not missing either. Lovers of some dirty rock and roll ought to know enough by now.

Black Lips has produced a fun album, that may not be in line with the age of its members, but who cares? The quality is what it should be and that is enough.


You can listen to 'Boys in the wood' here. (A video that comes with a You Tube warning. Never seen such a warning pop up before, so go for it!)

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