Saturday, June 11, 2011

Black Lips: Arabia Mountain

     The Black Lips are a garage rock and self-proclaimed flower-punk quartet hailing from the city of Dunwoody, Georgia, with Arabia Mountain their sixth full length album. The band came to my attention late in 2009, a few months after the release of their fifth lp, 200 Million Thousand. Their sound was one of lo-fi and grimy, whisky breath rock, and while this latest effort retains the same energy, it's production is much cleaner and accessible. The transition from that sound to  more of a pop attitude is executed brilliantly!
     The style of sound from these guys has always been relatively the same, with the only difference separating albums being the quality of the production. From their first record onwards, this became progressively cleaner, with a shock for many on 200 Million Thousand, when the recording quality dropped. On this latest album, I'm happy with the new direction of the group, with their attitude polished by the crisp production, rather than being muddied by the lo-fi cloak it wore before. Lyrically, this sixteen track keeps the fantastic hooks, melodies and quirky verses that make the Black Lips great, but the amount of songs and the length of the album means some tracks are quite short and similar in tone. All sixteen are good though, and there are none that I hate, but it's just pretty hard to distinguish a few tracks from others. But that's really my only complaint!
     The first two and a half minutes kick the album off with a bang. 'Family Tree' is amazing lyrically, with a killer hook that sticks in your head. The beauty of this track however, is the passion with which those lyrics are sang. With every member singing and a saxophone support, there are screams in this that echo previous  punk efforts. The quirky Wombats-esque lyrics are prominent in 'Spidey's Curse', a song reflecting on Peter Parker being, 'defenceless, so defenceless when he was a kid.' The vocals are hard to describe, but are very enjoyable, in both this and another track, 'Mr. Driver' especially.
     'Mad Dog' is another one of my favourite tracks. With another saxophone, there is an interesting dialogue that steps in and out of this song, adding much needed variety to the album. The singing is aggressive as they snarl the lyrics over a pounding drum beat and harmonic backing vocals, creating a phenomenal two minutes that just rock.
     Two tracks on, 'Bicentennial Man' has a very western feel that emulates the wild west cowboy attitude the album cover presents. This is because of both the twang of the guitar, I think, as well as the deeper, gruffer sounding voices that sing their way through. Elements that match perfectly to create a near perfect song with a near perfect hook. 'Go Out And Get It' has sharper, shorter lyrics, lending themselves to more of an upbeat feel, while 'Raw Meat' contributes to the same pot with it's whistling melody. 'Bone Marrow' is also a fantastic foot-tapper, with it's musical saw, 'doo be doo's and smile inducing clap beat. Frankly, every song is the same, and on a passive listen it would be hard to distinguish tracks. Take the time to listen carefully though, and you'll be rewarded with a joyous collection of melodies and hooks that are easy to rock along to.
     The end isn't as good as the start though, I must admit. 'Noc-A-Homa' is one of the more lo-fi sounding, join in and scream songs, which felt a bit repetitive. The last track feels very psychedelic in it's approach, which doesn't fit in with the rest of the album for me, and doesn't end the record on the high level with which it began. I simply couldn't understand the last ten seconds as well, which are just as important as the first. A crackling sound of a man trying to sound like a frog and then a disjointed beat for about five seconds? I'm pretty sure Black Lips could have thought of something better. Even so, the album as a whole is a great one, full of catchy hooks, passion and melodies to die for. Grab it if you love garage rock, and I'm sure you won't  be disappointed.