April 2009

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand
Vice Records VCA 80009-2
Format: CD
Released: 2009

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Black Lips' fifth album, 200 Million Thousand, just screams of youth in revolt. This Georgia-based band gets off on mixing one part psychedelic rock with two parts garage punk. Think George Thorogood meets Syd Vicious in '60's San Fran, and both have flowers in their hair and throw each other the peace sign.

Songs like "Drugs" and "Let It Grow" are like hippie anthems gone terribly wrong in the modern world. The innocence is completely lacking, but no one told the guitarist and keyboard player, who provide an almost comedic, flowery backdrop for the lead singer's ragged, throat-riddled lyrics about ultra violence, VD, and alcohol. The album as a whole gives the feeling that the listener is seeing the culmination of rock'n'roll to this very moment in history. Imagine a timeline beginning with Bo Diddly and Elvis, moving onward as you would expect through the last 50 years and ending with a "You are here" arrow pointing here and now at this very moment to the Black Lips. Somehow, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the band is a bunch of gutterpunks, it all makes sense.

Live, the band has a reputation for ridiculous onstage antics ( la  GG Allin). They've been called "gifted and dangerously wild" by one magazine reviewer and recently gained media attention after being forced to flee India for threat of being prosecuted for "homosexual acts" after two band members kissed on stage. Despite the band's raunchy, staged displays of nudity, vomiting and urination, their latest disc proves that they are genuinely talented. Demented, obscene and defiant may also apply -- so what if that gives them an NC-17 rating? Prepare for some intentional sound distortion and fuzzed-out vocals; prepare also to really dig it. It's all part of the act.