Rock musicians will forever be plagued with the ongoing duality of quality of recording vs. quality of live performance. If a live show is too much like one’s album, people are bound to call it boring. But if the live show is a lot less polished than the album, people are bound to say it sounds bad. And then there’s the plague of the alternate live version; that’s another issue altogether. It’s hard to strike that perfect balance, but once a band does, the inevitable reaction is to try to capture that on tape. And this is yet another area where the finished product can either be a masterpiece (Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison) or aural torture (Dylan & the Dead). Even the most seasoned of rock veterans can leave fans with a less than desirable live recording, merely for the fact that everyone has their off nights, not that you would believe it to hear Black Lips’ first live album, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo.
Unlike Bob Dylan, Georgia’s Black Lips haven’t been playing shows for decades, which may have something to do with their freshness and exuberance heard on Valientes. Already infamous for their uproarious live sets, some of which have gotten them banned from several venues in their home state, it only makes sense for the band’s fourth album to follow the “Foghat Principle”: double live. It’s actually only “single” live, but whatever, close enough, and it’s recorded in Tijuana, of all places, making the wild party factor all that much more palpable.
While the recording quality on Valientes isn’t super crisp or perfect, its rawness is, in essence, what makes it such an awesome album. Settled in that vintage punk rock groove somewhere between the Kinks and the Damned, Black Lips make the kind of garage rock that can unite greasers and hipsters alike in a slashed-seat fuzzbox throwdown. “Boomerang” swaggers with bluesy jangle, while “Stranger” shimmies and shakes with a British Invasion-inspired strut. Deeper into the set, more melodic and catchy tunes like “Not a Problem” and “Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah” arise to break up the four chord raveups. But the band returns to tearing shit up with the brief, rocking “Boone.”
At one point, frontman Cole Alexander declares “this is going to be the best live record of all time.” I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s too soon to tell, but chances are Cash will still beat `em. No matter, this is one loud, fuzzy, and super fun set of rock `n’ roll debauchery that showcases Black Lips thriving in their element.
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Detroit Cobras – Mink Rat or Rabbit