Black Lips – Underneath The Rainbow (Vice Records)
Notorious Atlanta troublemakers Black Lips have made it through the last fifteen years of hard drugs, rock ‘n’ roll excess, and an over-hyped mainstream producer (Mark Ronson), to release their seventh studio album Underneath The Rainbow.
Known not only for their music but also their infamous onstage antics (puking, pissing and nudity), along with a niche for starting riots. Such anarchy that found them being chased out of India by the police in 2009. Thankfully however the music has always managed to stand up on its own merits, with such excess only adding to Black Lips’ mystique.
The Black Lips’ 60’s pastiche rock ‘n’ roll is instantly familiar on Underneath The Rainbow, drawing on their usual influences of The Sonics, The Rolling Stones and The Fuzztones, in the sun drenched surf riffs of ‘Smiling’ and ’Dorner Party’. ‘Make You Mine’ is a catchy slice of 60’s pop, reminiscent of The Byrds while ‘Do The Vibrate’ is pure proto grunge straight from the songbook of The Pixies. The psychedelic country of ‘Boys In The Wood’ and ‘Drive By Buddy’ is Black Lips at their best, throwing beer bottles at passing trains and howling into the night.
Underneath The Rainbow’s production was split between Thomas Brenneck and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. Mark Ronson produced the band’s previous album Arabian Mountain, the album that saw them clean up their sound and lose some of their lo-fi aesthetics. Patrick Carney again attempts to mix the lo-fi garage punk with a more polished sound, this time glammed up stadium rock, which has found The Black Keys commercial success. The results are most notable on stadium ready ‘Waiting’ and the glam stomp of ‘Dandelion Dust’. Their mainstream aspirations are worn on their sleeves in the synth loving ‘Funny’, with its tight vocal arrangements and slick chorus.
Thomas Brenneck and Patrick Carney (just as Mark Ronson before them) knew the DIY ethos in the recording process was something that should remain untouched; giving Black Lips space to be Black Lips is the best thing they can do. Underneath The Rainbow is a vibrant, energetic and fun album with all the usual Black Lips elements perfectly intact, rambling drunken vocals, stirring bum notes and head scratching background noises. Underneath The Rainbow is Black Lips being Black Lips, yet they are better than anyone else at it so what more could we want?
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