Black Lips

black lips2 Black Lips

As heartbroken hockey fans from Atlanta grieve the loss of their second NHL franchise to the Canadian prairies, those dozen or so Thrashers supporters can console themselves with the fact that they’ll always have the Black Lips to call their own. And that’s no small consolation. With the release of Arabia Mountain, their sixth studio album, the Atlanta-based flower punks might just be on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough.

Black Lips play a tight blend of 13th Floor Elevators-style psyche rock mixed with Stooges-style garage punk. Known for their onstage antics as much as their music, at any given Black Lips performance you could witness this four-piece vomiting, peeing and spitting all over each other, setting off fireworks and lighting their guitars on fire, or stripping naked and kissing on stage. The latter of which, at a show in India, forced them to flee the country for fear of being jailed for committing “homosexual acts” (You’d think being from the South, where it’s a felony to make eye contact with another man for too long, would have taught these enfants terrible to keep it in their pants in public).

Arabia Mountain is 16 tight tracks to get drunk and shake your tambourine to. From their wonderfully juvenile subject matter (they sing about Peter Parker being molested, and ex-Atlanta Braves mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa), to the recording techniques (they drummed on raw meat, and used a human skull as an echo chamber), to their videos (where they’re either getting drunk or getting stoned), everything about Black Lips just seems to ooze a youthful exuberance, despite their retro sound.

Producer Mark Ronson, along with being an accomplished musician, has a production resume that read like a who’s who of contemporary pop princesses (Adele, Lily Allen, Christina Aguilera, Ghostface Killah). But perhaps most famously, he taught the whole world to doo wop when he was at the helm for the majority of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album. So it should come as no surprise that Arabia Mountain is an especially slick and soulful album start-to-finish.

If there’s one minor downside, it’s that this release just doesn’t have the snarl of previous albums. You’re really unable to shake the feeling that you’re going to be hearing some of the catchier numbers on ads for hybrid cars and tablet devices. But given that Black Lips are perpetually on tour and have six studio and two live albums under their belt, and too many side projects to list off, surely they’re due for some of the spoils of mainstream success. Factor in that they only boast one member in his thirties and it’s pretty safe to say the legacy of Atlanta’s Black Lips will outlast that of the Atlanta Flames or Thrashers.

This article was published on The Tyee in May 2011.