Black Lips – “New Direction” (MP3)
Only one song on Black Lips’ sixth record Arabia Mountain exceeds three and a half minutes, but that doesn’t really matter. This band are four men, each of whose songwriting abilities are showcased somewhere in the record’s sixteen-strong list of tracks, and each of whose song-penning strengths leans toward the short, sweet, scuzzy, and catchy as hell.
The fact that, for the first time in their decade-long career, the band recruited some outside help – superproducer Mark Ronson manned the board on nine tracks, and Deerhunter’s Lockett Pundt handled two – hasn’t changed a thing. These songs might be a little more immediate and accessible than the band’s previous material, but they’re still Black Lips songs, so they’re still immediate lo-fi garage anthems. You can tell which tracks Ronson produced: they’re neat-sounding and as cleanly, expertly assembled as anything you’d hear on modern rock radio. You can tell what Pundt produced, too: all the band’s punk fuzz sounds sunny and simple in his hands. But you can also tell what the band produced themselves, because those songs sound like a Wild-West themed drunken sing-along in the darkest, dive-iest bar in the worst part of town on the hottest day of summer.
The whole thing, diverse though its production crew may be, flows cleanly – everything sounds tailor-made for those days when the sun never seems to move. Arabia Mountain is a hazy, idealized infinite summer: try not smiling the second that warbly guitar kicks in with drummer Joe Bradley’s vocals on “Go Out and Get It.” “The Lie” sounds like what your theme music would be if you referred to yourself as “the Kid.” Everything has a perfect, catchy, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that riff – on Ian St. Pe’s or Cole Alexander’s guitar, usually, but the saxophone on “Mad Dog” and the whistling on “Raw Meat” are irresistible. Everything is a song you can just as easily dance to as get in fights to. That might be Black Lips’ whole M.O., and it hasn’t gone anywhere. So don’t worry, get sun dizzy, and enjoy.