The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (Vice)
by Laura Crapo
Like an arsenal of lingerie that you know will work, these songs will go over well – live and recorded.
The Black Lips are the only band displayed on a wall in my home. It’s just a picture clipping from a music magazine, taped up in what I was told by a veteran psychic and healer was my career corner. It’s there to remind me of the spirit of rocking. It‘s there along with my certificate confirming the presence of my book in the Brautigan Library and the first review of my writing where I was compared to Mark Twain – awesome!! That Dalhousie University student reviewer made my self-published book about being depressed in Victoria BC so much more fun and worthwhile. The wall needs some more career. My career is crushed into suitcases in my basement, videotapes of marrying myself, and writing that scares me for its sexual frankness. Not obvious building blocks to success. But the Black Lips photo will keep it alive. I’ve had it there for six years. I don’t sit and gaze at it. But I’m happy to see it, when I see it. Not that their influence has penetrated my being enough to raise my game. Lately, I’ve only gone so far as the karaoke booth with friends to decimate ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Born To Be Wild’. Someday all the live exposure to Black Lips and Iggy Pop, The Jesus Lizard, Smog etc will translate into a good live show for me.
I saw them play Sala Rosa in Montreal a few years ago. I had heard their shows were really crazy from first person accounts of their first shows in NYC. I don’t know – like body fluids and nudity, something like that. What I saw was a love-in. A full-on love of music and the people gathered there that night. And, I don’t know why exactly, but moustaches drive me into some kind of instant love and attraction. I don’t get it, but having a mustachioed member in a band definitely increases my interest in their creative mission. I am often asking a boyfriend to consider rocking the moustache – if only for a week. So, while taking in their show, and infectious enthusiasm, and mostly looking at the guy with the stache, I was recruited. Black Lips admirer.
I’m sure real music scholars will boil over with my ignorance and give me laser eyes over distance – but are The Black Lips post-punk? I say that cause definitive musical styles are tried on and discarded, song by song. It’s like if John Cale played in The Clash, then it’s like Lou Reed is playing in The Ventures, then a Ramones song, then Beach Boys, The Animals, ‘La Bamba’, Yardbirds. Arabia Mountain has the sass of ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ (“and you’re going to be in trouble”), throughout. These are the guys Phil Spector should sequester in a studio for a month and with them, make a sonic masterpiece.
But it’s not necessary, I’m just saying it would go well, if that came to pass. They aren’t sweating over knob turning in the studio. There’s no hired arranger, no masking f-ups with banks of strings or pads of a plugged-in piano. They’re just full-on.
They are giving culture right back to us, but through a love filter. Give the Black Lips war, and they’ll give it back their way. Give them the popular song and they’ll give it back to you. Going to their live show was like being welcomed into a church, where the minister is the coolest guy in town, and you connected with the word of God, cause it felt good.