Black Lips | Arabia Mountain (Vice)

Mark Ronson’s influence has pushed the band even further into the realm of retro for this album; most of the best tracks sound like something straight out of the 1960s.

 

 

I’ve always found it awesome that despite how frequently Black Lips switch styles in the middle of a song or chorus, every single one of their releases still offers incredible consistency. More than any other band, they can surprise you as they switch between surf rock, punk, and country at will. I would definitely count them among my favorite bands, and when I heard they would be working with famed UK producer Mark Ronson on their latest release, I eagerly looked forward to another quality record. And sure enough, unlike many of this year’s releases, Arabia Mountain meets all expectations, really knocking it out of the park.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Black Lips are in many ways a throwback band; their style is influenced heavily by surf rock and ‘60s rock/pop. However, they love to throw in some punk breakdowns and metal solos when you’re getting a little too comfortable. On Arabia Mountain, they certainly don’t abandon that formula, as songs like “Family Tree,” “Modern Art,” and “The Lie” prove that they are still in touch with their roots. At the same time, this is without a doubt the band’s calmest and most accessible album. Some of the songs are absolutely beautiful, such as the surf rock classic “New Direction” and the laid back, folky “Spidey’s Curse,” and overall it’s a really pretty album. Mark Ronson’s influence has pushed the band even further into the realm of retro for this album; most of the best tracks sound like something straight out of the 1960s.

I prefer music that is direct and to the point over meandering, “epic” tunes. That’s one of the things I adore about Black Lips—they waste no time on their albums whatsoever. No pointless fadeouts, no overdramatic intros—every part of every song has a point. How else would you fit 16 songs into just over 40 minutes? Even their solos and outros are concise. They have an innate ability to make their short tracks hit the hardest, from “Raw Meat” with its awesome whistling melody to the crazy retro feel of “Mad Dog,” the Lips do a great job of keeping it simple. And even when they do come in at a whopping four and a half minutes on the spooky closer “You Keep on Running,” there is no hint of dragging or bloating.

With so many short, catchy tunes Arabia Mountain is an album you can play over and over again, back to back, until it gets into your head completely. You’ll even laugh a bit when Black Lips regale listeners with tales about the Atlanta Braves mascot (“Noc-A-Homa”) and digging for buried treasure (“Dumpster Dive”). The band has matured while maintaining their sound and roots, and the result is up to their usual standard but catchier than any of their previous releases. It doesn’t have quite as much power as 2007’s Good Bad Not Evil, but it is in many ways a superior album and one of the year’s finest. A | Brett Berliner

RIYL: The Rolling Stones, Jay Reatard, Deerhunter

 

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