The Black Lips… made a concept album. Trust me it’s not what you think.

The undisputed kings of the underground Punk scene are back and weirder than ever.

I’ve been a fan of The Black Lips since I was 13, that may contribute in large as to why I might not be all there.  They were loud, crude, snotty, did not apologize for their behaviour and best of all they had a sense of humor.  Imagine if the characters from Blazing Saddles were in a punk band and that’s basically what you get from these folks. I’m not even hyperbolising  here, we’re talking about the guys who have been banned from India because lead singer Cole Alexander mooned the audience, as well as the infamous hijacking of Gene Simmons’ Huffington Post live interview, where they jokingly suggested that he “surrender the Kiss Army”. Yeah that happened. Throughout the years  the band have grappled with various styles  from 60’s soul  to 80’s hardcore punk, but one thing has remained constant in their career, which is their commitment  to playing energetic, no BS Rock n’ Roll.  

On their Eighth studio album, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? the band have definitely flipped the script on what has been perceived to be their formula in many ways, most notably in the decision to record a concept album or rather a mock-concept album depending on which member of the band you talk to. Don’t expect them to ever have their stories straight.  This change might have been inspired by the recent departure of drummer/songwriter Joe Bradley or that Sean Lennon (yes he’s John Lennon’s son, get over it) was over seeing the production of this latest effort. I admit, initially I was skeptical as whether or not  their sense of danger and sporadicness would be compromised but it actually turned out worked exceptionally well. In fact it suits the band perfectly in the sense that Black Lips are a weird group of guys and gals. The album sounds like a soundtrack  to a lost  John Waters film, with a feeling for campiness and absurdity.

This is particularly apparent on tracks like ‘Crystal Night’ , a twisted 50’s bubble gum pop number about two lovers during the Holocaust and   ‘Rebel Intuition’  a satirical country song about not giving a fuck.  This isn’t to say that the band are incapable of being serious or sincere, those moments shine through on songs like ‘The Last Cul de Sac’ ,  sung in a close to heartfelt  manner by former Black Lip bandit, Joe Bradley. There are  some rare moments like this on the record but for the most part you can expect the same amount of silliness and tom foolery  the band has been known for.  

Side note: some the other slower numbers on this album might actually just be all jokes, could’ve fooled me. In terms of instrumentation the band have never sounded more tight and somewhat in tune than on this record, they actually know how to play their instruments now, but this doesn’t stop them from having fun and experimenting.  

Although this album actually doesn’t  have a concept per se, it could be suggested that perhaps it does have an overall theme, which is  experimenting, trying  something out your comfort zone. This album has a lot that, from trippy Jazz breakdowns to straight fuzz-freakouts and Anti-Folk undertones. I could harp on and on about the many facets of this album that help define it as modern masterpiece (which would be a gross exaggeration) but in the end all you need to know is that Satan’s Graffiti Or God’s Art ? is a big ol’ ball of fun and bewilderment.

If you’re looking  for a straightforward Punk rock album in the vein of Iggy & The Stooges’ ‘Raw Power’  or  Bad Brains’ first full length  LP, you’re not going to find that here go back to their previous efforts (especially Let It Bloom and Arabia Mountain). However if you’re someone who likes  art-rock albums that aren’t too arty, and will either make you laugh or want to send the band death threats, then this is the perfect album for you!  I personally rank this a ⅘ , the album hits hard but might not always be consistent.

  • Adam Crisp

    Great write-up, Jay. Keep up the good work.

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