Raw, rough, and raucous – those are the three R’s that describe Black Lips’ latest offering, 200 Million Thousand (CD – MP3). The album sounds like a lost demo from a 1960’s garage band filtered through a present-day lyrical lens. At first listen, it’s easy to write the album up as being simply produced and a tad slapdash, but 200 Million Thousand reveals its layers slowly.
The whole affair has the thrown-together, drunken vibe of a true punk recording session, though it’s hard to imagine anyone in the band using the term “recording session.” The songs don’t seem particularly thought-out or rehearsed, and it’s easy to imagine the notoriously brazen band doing the whole thing on the fly. The result is a genuine sound that is blissfully under-produced and immediate, but not to the point of aggravation. There is at least *some* care taken with these songs.
Songs like “Drugs,” “Let It Go,” “Again and Again,” and “Starting Over” sound like Fugazi on a Valium binge, with churning rhythms and piercing, mangled guitar squeals underneath vocals that are growling and grimy. “Trapped in a Basement” displays a style that can only be described as Nick Cave meets surf ballad, while “Short Fuse” benefits from a more polished, clear sound. There’s an abundance of dramatic, foreboding songwriting, as featured on the death-marching “Body Combat.” All of this is done with an earthy swagger full of menace and cut with a southern Gothic flair befitting their hometown of Atlanta.
The range of styles found here is actually surprising, considering the DIY ethos and haphazard methods of their overall sound. It seems that conscious production was utilized only when the band was trying to achieve a certain vibe. You’ll hear acid-tinged pop (“Short Fuse”), sarcastically formulaic 1950’s-style teen ballads covered with grime (“I’ll Be With You), spooky B-movie sounds (“BBBJOT”), and delightfully demented rhymesaying (“The Drop I Hold”). It’s obvious that these guys have listened to an awful lot more music than The Stooges, who, for some reason, I’m constantly reminded of while listening to this album.
It’s abundantly clear that Black Lips don’t give a damn if anyone likes what they hear, and that’s an admirable trait. With so many bands falling over themselves in an effort to sound one way or another, Black Lips just do what they do, and what comes out is rock in its most radioactive form.