Black Lips : Good Bad Not Evil
Earlier this year, Black Lips released their live album Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo, an album that the band personally declared, on the record, no less, would go down in history as one of the best live recordings of all time. Raw, hedonistic and intense, it delivered on its promise, showing just how much ass a live record could kick, given the right treatment, in this case, clarity of recording enough to capture Black Lips’ unhinged rock `n’ roll madness. Keeping in mind that ensnaring the essence of one of the best live bands around on one record in their element is a difficult feat to best, Los Valientes‘ follow-up Good Bad Not Evil does just that, with the same energy and furious pursuit of creating a ruckus, with the added benefit of a little studio filter.
On Good Bad Not Evil, the Atlanta group more or less sticks to what they do best—meaty riffs, rebellious spirit, sexy swagger and anything required to have a good time. For the listener, however, all that’s required to have a good time is a press of the play button, and voila!—instant destructive, drunken, disorienting and completely awesome house party. Leadoff track “Lean” makes that pretty apparent right off the bat, its treble-heavy riff driving a soulful punk rock groove, frontman Cole Alexander squealing like Mick Jagger filtered through an adolescent Henry Rollins.
“O Katrina!” name drops New Orleans, but isn’t so much about an actual hurricane as it is a revved up ode to a mean girl, or so it would seem anyhow. “Veni Vidi Vici” is a surprising standout, a vibro-slap heavy dance number that finds a happy medium between Classic IV’s “Spooky” and The Stone Roses’ “Fool’s Gold,” hotly slithering in its sexy subtlety. “Navajo” is a love song to a “little Indian girl,” kitschy and bouncy, sounding like a Southwestern battered garage rock tune straight out of the ’60s. Another highlight comes in “Lock and Key,” which is a bit more subdued than many of these guitar-blazing rockers, but makes up for it with infectious melodies and sheer intensity. For a bit of bizarre, uncomfortable humor, look no further than the country & western singalong “How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died,” in which Alexander awkwardly explains each person’s demise between recitations of the chorus.
The Black Lips don’t do things perfectly, and that’s sort of the point—this is rock `n’ roll, it’s not meant to be perfect, right? Thing is, when the band completely lets loose and unleashes their junkyard punk stomp on “Step Right Up,” no other word but `perfect’ seems to describe that sublime, howling mess. It’s paradoxical and it’s complex, but it really doesn’t have to be. It’s rock `n’ roll—it can be whatever the hell it wants to be.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.