Review of Black Lips' album '200 Million Thousand' released through Vice.
Every once in a while the clarion call grows louder for a revival of sorts. Already this decade, we've experienced the second coming of metal, new wave of new wave of new wave, the umpteenth dawn of punk, 'new' rave, nugaze, forbearing stool-ridden folkies and of course, the whole garage rock explosion that kick started the noughties. Round about the same time, Atlanta's Black Lips would have just been starting out on their embryonic road to destruction that has seen band members come and go in both hostile and tragic circumstances, live shows just as memorable for fire and faeces as they would be for any of their music, and a general haphazardness that's created a mythical aura around the outfit as one of the most debauched, unpredictable but absolutely vital acts of the modern era. At times, the fact they've constructed a series of generally unimpeachable records is almost secondary to the hedonistic goings-on surrounding their day-to-day activities.
Thankfully, 2007's 'Good Bad Not Evil' seemed to alter the overall perception somewhat, mixing the band's customary garage scrawl with pop sensibilities many thought Black Lips either weren't aware of or had left behind many years ago in some Georgia trailer park refuse disposal unit. Soon, every critic wanted a piece of the action, commercial success seemed just around the corner and even primetime television's 'Dirty Sexy Money' wanted their slice, commissioning the use of their 'Veni Vidi Vici' song into one of their episodes. Comparisons to the likes of the Kings Of Leon appeared regularly in the glossies; a tad unfair in many ways as Black Lips have always undoubtedly been the real deal rather than a bunch of over-hyped chancers continually chasing the dollar. So, having taken almost two years in between records, the smart money was on album number five being the big radio-friendly, stadium-sized beast that would catapult them to worldwide fame and fortune right? Wrong. Instead, '200 Million Thousand' is the sound of a band going back to basics in the most literal sense of the word. Never ones of being ashamed to reference their influences at every juncture if necessary, Black Lips make no secret throughout this record for their love of all things psychedelic in the most primitive, lo-fi sense that you could almost be forgiven for thinking this was a collection of outtakes recycled from the vaults of a Pebbles collection circa 1966.
From the opening bars of The Standells sounding 'Take My Heart' through to the obtuse, discordant trip fantasy of 'Melt Down', '200 Million Thousand' is a record that while assuming the mantle of retro in its make-up, is anything but a tributary backward glance at the past in reality. 'Starting Over' could be the Rolling Stones in their most primitive guise were it not for the unrelenting vocals of Cole Alexander while 'Trapped In A Basement' and 'Big Black Baby Jesus Of Today' fizzle and explode like a modern day 13th Floor Elevators after a meeting of minds with Anton Newcombe, a scary yet fascinating prospect in theory.
If anything, '200 Million Thousand' is the sound of a band completely at ease with their art, and in full control of both their identity and ultimate destiny, as any accusations of "sell outs" thrown their way by long-standing devotees two years ago are sure to be rammed back down their welcoming throats on hearing this. By the same token, there'll be some who'll quite happily castigate Black Lips for regressing to their primal garage instincts instead of developing into a finely-tuned guitar pop machine, but they're missing the point entirely, as this is pretty much as good as it gets for a genre most people had lost interest with at least five years ago, including some of those main revivalists itself.
All hail Black Lips then, striking a blow for integrity and credibility against corporate manhandling once and for all, and in ostensibly timeless fashion at that.
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