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Album Review
Arabia Mountain

Arabia Mountain
by The Black Lips


Review Date
28th June, 2011
Reviewed by
Vincent Michaelsen

When Black Lips first graced the ears of most of us a few years back with tracks like ‘Bad Kids’ and ‘O Katrina’ it certainly didn’t seem like a relationship destined to last. Their crass stage antics and Ramonesy guitar riffs made them an easy bunch to fall for, but surely time would do its thing. If the hard-living four piece weren’t to crack first, listeners would eventually grow old and bored, leaving only distant, youthful memories. Six albums in however and Black Lips have still to show any sign of backing down and I’m damn happy they haven’t. Arabia Mountain is everything one might want and expect from the Atlanta group, with enough puke, trash and good times to satisfy the greatest of fans. Had you been of the mind though, that the boys had changed their tack with news of the Mark Ronson produced album, then you may well have been had.

Taking on a seasoned pro in production, a first for the group, has however brought them back closer to their Good, Bad, Not Evil finest, with a clearer and more focused album than 2009’s 200 Million Thousand. Improvement in general sound quality aside, Arabia Mountain shows an added complexity to the tracks while maintaining every bit of the band’s scuzzy ethos. The vocal layering and saxophone in ‘Mad Dog’ for example gives the song those finishing touches which really make it a welcome turn away from the sometimes tiresome murk of 200 Million Thousand. Use of experimental instruments like the saw, theremin and a little boogie-woogie piano has also helped create some texture to the sound of an otherwise standard four-piece set up.

That said however, it’s not the instruments these guys play but how they play them that make Black Lips so cool. With the only downside of the album perhaps being its repetition towards the second half, the record is as fun and fast paced as could be hoped for. With tracks averaging around two and a half minutes there’s little time to mess about. And mess about they do not. Within these 16 tracks the Lips cover all influential bases from The Ramones (‘Raw Meat’), The Beach Boys (‘Don’t Mess Up My Baby’), The Velvet Underground guitar riffs on ‘Spidey’s Curse’ and perhaps a hint at The Clash with ‘Mr. Driver’.

On the whole it’s a pretty cheery 60’s pop vibe that pervades this record, showing the band in good spirits. And despite suggestions by guitarist/vocalist Cole Alexander that the band had delved deeper into the meanings of these songs its not entirely apparent on the surface. Try spinning ‘Mad Dog’ backwards though and there may be something new to discover in this tune, what it is though, I am yet to find out myself.


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