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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Black Lips: Good Bad Not Evil


1) I Saw A Ghost (Lean); 2) O Katrina!; 3) Veni Vidi Vici; 4) It Feels Alright; 5) Navajo; 6) Lock And Key; 7) How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died; 8) Bad Kids; 9) Step Right Up; 10) Cold Hands; 11) Off The Block; 12) Slime And Oxygen; 13) Transcendental Light.

And here comes maturity — a record that dispatches with the extreme tendencies of lo-fi and tries to be fun for us all, without segregating the listeners into those who will wade through the muck and those who do not think so much of having to wade through muck if it isn't a matter of life and death. Finally, after all these years, we will be able to tell if the Black Lips are really as great as their image has manipulated them into seeming — without having to shake the aural dust and so­nic soot out of our ears as a pre-requisite!

Of course, without the safeguard of horrendous production, the band runs an increased risk of pas­sing for trivial fetishists. But in my personal system of values, «trivial fetishism» ranks well above «trivial fetishism masked by intentional sloppiness». And besides, there is still way too much post-punk freedom here — in the lyrics, in the vocals, in the minimalism, in the roughness — for anyone to seriously mistake Good Bad Not Evil for a collection of garage oldies.

The singles are generally the best, just the way it is supposed to be with this kind of music. 'Cold Hands' starts off in an Easybeats mode, then, after a couple verses, segues into a Ventures-style surf-rock solo, everything at breakneck speed — the only thing that is missing is a sense of pur­pose, although the lyrics vaguely suggest some sort of social comparison going on ("We get along while their very bones decay"), but a little more fire and desperation could be welcome here. Then again, the Black Lips are hooligans and jokers — they'd rather piss on the cop than stick him up, and that goes for pretty much everything else, including Hurricane Katrina: 'O Katrina' probably would have been misunderstood, had they had the gall to write and release it way back in 2005, but two years later, with the tension gone for good, they can allow themselves to chant "O, Katrina, why you gotta be mean?" to a jolly catchy dance melody.

The big «anthem» of the album, however, is 'Bad Kids', whose particular lyrics are not very inte­resting (hardly any new insights into the problem since the days of the Ramones and the Clash anyway); what is interesting is that they are lain over an upbeat retro-pop structure whose roots go well back to Motown — the best proverbial illustration for «flower punk» that any encyclo­pae­dia could ask for. Punk-rock with a Motown smile does not blunder its way under your win­dows every day of the week; with these numbers, the Black Lips may be finally beginning to carve themselves out a niche all their own.

Or maybe it is with such «crowd-shockers» as 'How Do You Tell A Child That Someone Has Died' — a song whose lyrical message is quite well disclosed in the title, and whose melody pil­fers a standard country waltz to discuss the uncomfortable subject in Nashville terms? Not neces­sarily, since this approach shows too much of a Ween influence (particularly 12 Golden Country Greats, of course), and the Lips lack the proper musicianship to catch up with Ween in their reckless genre-riding. Which does not mean that the song does not leave a proper «impression»: each decade needs its own dose of brutal, mercyless country-thumping, and it just so happened to have been ten years since Ween gave us theirs.

In other news, the Lips poke blunt fun at world religions ('Veni Vidi Vici'), Native Americans ('Navajo'), rednecks ('Lock And Key'), psychedelics ('Off The Block'), and whatever else I might have missed, all of it set to these little ripped-off variations on Sixties' chord sequences that can each be traced to two or three singles from Nuggets once somebody finances the project (to do that, all that is needed is for the Lips to become the next Beatles, and then you could be their Mark Lewisohn). I hereby confirm that the album is indeed an honest example of «good bad not evil», and that corresponds to a thumbs up, offered with limited enthusiasm but, nevertheless, out of sheer free will. In fact, Good Bad Not Evil even raises some hope that, perhaps, some day these kids might actually begin writing songs rather than just pulling them out of their parents' stereos and filtering them through their asses.

Check "Good Bad Not Evil" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Good Bad Not Evil" (MP3) on Amazon

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