Arabia Mountain is the latest release from The Black Lips, with tracks produced by both Mark Ronson and Lockett Pundt the Atlanta-based quartet have truly hit their groove and deliver a 16-song album more than worth the money.
The Black Lips (Cole Alexander, Joe Bradley, Ian St. Pé and Jared Swilley) chose to work without a producer for their previous studio albums (Black Lips!, We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow, Let it Bloom, Good Bad Not Evil, 200 Million Thousand) which could explain the previously frantic, woozy, out-of-focus direction those albums took, although they were certainly well-enough received to build a devoted fan-base. Arabia Mountain finally brings The Black Lips into focus, carving out a path of psych-laden, garage-rock that stands head-and-shoulders above their previous work and is sure to gain them some attention.
The entire album has a lo-fi sound; both the band and producer Mark Roson share a love for vintage recording techniques and hardware. The first song on the album, “Family Tree” is straight from the 60’s with a rocking sax and bridge and chorus shouted with youthful enthusiasm. The sax comes back on “Mad Dog” lending a driving, deep layer that undeniably makes this one of the best songs on the album.
“Raw Meat” is a campy fun song, and the band literally brought raw meat into the studio during recording, method-singing? Reminiscent of something The Ramones would have whipped up this number ends side A with a fist pump and sends the listener scrambling to flip the disc quickly.
Side B continues the retro-punk feel with “Bone Marrow” (and a singing saw for goodness sake) and then leads into “The Lie”, with a softer, fuller sound drawing the listener in and then turning on it’s ear into a driving rock-and-roll package.
“Dumpster Dive” takes the listener back to an early Stones sound of raw, bluesy energy complete with piano and dirty guitar riffs. “Noc-A-Homa” has a surf-punk feel but adds a bit of go-go psych and sends the listener dancing around the room within seconds. “You Keep On Running” closes the album and will satisfy long-time Black Lips fans; the band may have grown-up a bit but they haven’t lost their edge and this final number takes the listener back to previous efforts with startling clarity.
Perhaps this album is what the band needs to grow-up a bit and focus more on music than on the antics surrounding their live shows. The band admits those antics helped when they were younger and could not play their instruments as well; but a reputation for vomiting, nudity, fireworks, and kissing band members is hard to overcome, especially when that may have been the initial draw for some fans. This album can lift them above that bad-boy, look-at-me mentality and move them into a place where the music is the primary focus.
The album is available in the usual digital format (MP3 and CD) but also on vinyl. Refreshingly the vinyl version is mastered well and adds to the overall vintage feel; as a result the full sound intended with the album is captured perfectly, and nuances are not lost in this warm, delicious sound. (For purposes of this review the vinyl version was utilized.)
By Meredith Underhill