Music » Rhythm Section: by Alison Fensterstock

Give Us Some Lip


Members of Atlanta's The Black Lips -- a four-piece band still mostly on the early end of their twenties -- have been playing together since before they were old enough to know any better, and it shows. Their jangly, psychedelic garage-rock assault is both hallucinogenic and dirty -- like the Sonics but messier, like the 13th Floor Elevators but faster and kind of like anything on Rhino Records' Nuggets '60s garage-rock compilations but brasher, meaner and audibly more willing than their forebears to put themselves in harm's way in the course of playing music. (Case in point -- the opening maniacal yelp on the track "Not A Problem" on their Vice Records debut, Los Valientes del Mondo Nuevo is weirdly similar to the screech that kicks off the Sonics' hyper-track "The Witch," except instead of sounding as if their singer is going to hurt you, it sounds as if he's just accidentally -- and horribly -- hurt himself.) On its MySpace page, The Black Lips lists (and was lauded by Rolling Stone for doing so) Bo Diddley and Robitussin as influences. Blame punk rock for showing up in the intervening years between when their '60s influences were recording and The Black Lips were actually born.

The teenage band formed in Atlanta in 2000 and released several 7-inch recordings on its own Die Slaughterhaus label (which also put out releases from New Orleans punk and underground outfits Die Rotzz and Kajun SS) in the first few years of the millennium. In 2004, things picked up, and the band released three full-length studio albums in as many years on almost as many labels: The Black Lips and We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow on the California pop-punk label Bomp!, Let It Bloom on the garage-punk stalwart In the Red Records and a live album recorded at New Jersey's famed indie radio station WFMU. The Black Lips' local link is on-and-off New Orleanian guitarist and full-frontal gold-grill sporter Ian Brown, who played in the Crescent City's thumping garage-punk trio The Original Three. Brown moved to Atlanta in 2005 to become a permanent member of The Black Lips, just in time to catch its wave as it really started to rise.

Nobody's advocating self-destructive (or more accurately, generally destructive) behavior, but it still does the heart good to see rock 'n' roll being perpetuated by the sort of people who started it and continue to love it more genuinely and wholeheartedly than children love puppies on Christmas morning -- sweaty, obnoxious, probably drunk, near-adolescent boys with energy to burn and rude senses of humor. That, to a tee, is The Black Lips. Extra bonus points to the band for putting that testosterone-fueled enthusiasm into brash, bawdy, guitar-dominated punk rock and not, say, rap-metal. The Black Lips is known for extraordinarily bad manners at live shows. Rumor has it the group was once banned for life from One Eyed Jacks, the venue it's actually playing this time around in New Orleans, for setting off multiple firecrackers onstage. The band also has been 86'd from Atlanta's well-known 40 Watt Club for antics including, but not limited to, onstage amateur pyrotechnics, vomiting and urinating while performing, and somebody playing the guitar with his penis. (I saw this maneuver attempted by Black Lips buddy King Khan at the Circle Bar in October. It didn't look comfortable, attractive or efficacious for his overall musicianship).

That general advisory issued, we can say that The Black Lips is a perfect choice for its new label, Vice Records. The label is a recent outgrowth for the magazine of the same name, a publication (and now ever-growing brand) whose aesthetic is a clever, razor-fine balance between self-conscious underground hipsterism and seventh-grade humor. The live Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo, a mix of old and new tracks, was recorded during what sounds like a very magical blowout of a night indeed -- in Tijuana. The photos accompanying the album capture the following elements: tiny Mexican Budweiser cans, enthusiastic fist-pumping, lots of sweat, a confused (and possibly horrified) mariachi band, a tattoo of maracas and the moments just before a girl takes off her top and a guy vomits on the floor. And the album, gloriously, sounds exactly like it was recorded at that party, with incoherent shouts in Spanish, the declaration "This is going to be the best live album ever!" and a sloppy, ebullient onslaught of banging, clanging psychedelic punk rock. One can only hope the show at One Eyed Jacks will be half so dangerous. Chicago-based band The Ponys opens.

Look for raucous, and sometimes dirty, garage-rock from - The Black Lips at One Eyed Jacks.
  • Look for raucous, and sometimes dirty, garage-rock from The Black Lips at One Eyed Jacks.

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