The Black Lips

Rachel Brodsky

The Black Lips played solidly, chaotically, but sadly, a bit robotically.

The Black Lips

City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Music Hall of Williamsburg
Date: 2009-03-10

There’s no denying the fact that indie garage punkers the Black Lips get a kick out of a little shock value. Do they hope to imitate rock ‘n’ rollers of years past (Ozzy snorting a line of ants, for example)? Or do Cole Alexander & Co. wish to become snot-nosed stereotypes of kids who never made it past high school? That said, there was a certain something about the Black Lips’ show that induced my hyper critical side. Had I really -- after years of enjoying the in-your-face early ‘60s garage-punk produced by the Black Lips -- been smacked with the “been there, listened to that” attitude evoked by the most reprehensible brand of music snobs? Probably not, because that’s never been my style. It was, in fact, the Black Lips who seemed to be suffering from indie snob syndrome. Their show played out solidly, chaotically, but sadly, a bit robotically. Over the past few years the Black Lips have gained praise from many critics for melding 13th Floor Elevators’ style psychedelia with the unorganized punk rock of the Clash filtered through the Kinks’ early ‘60s pop structure. More recently, the band was heralded for their six-city tour through India, which was cut short in dramatic fashion when lead singer Cole Alexander exposed himself onstage (and I’m not talking about emotional vulnerability here), jumped into the crowd, and, upon returning to the stage, made out with one of his band members. Talk about a series of unfortunate events. After almost getting their passports stolen and narrowly avoiding a trip to the most unforgiving sort of jail, the Lips made their way back home via Berlin and have continued their tour in the United States. We should pause for a moment and just consider the stupidity of stripping naked in a country where religious conservatism rules, and playing punk tinged rock ‘n’ roll is newsworthy, period. Given their antics and hijinks, the Black Lips are all about inflicting musical chaos, at least as much as the 21st century and religiously straight-laced nations will allow them.

Artist: Black Lips Album: 200 Million Thousand Label: Vice Image: US Release Date: 2009-02-24 UK Release Date: Available as import

At this particular show, the Black Lips ran onto the stage excitedly, ready to do what they do best. The bassist came adorned in a cowboy poncho and pilgrim hat, but chose not to acknowledge it. Crying “one two three four!,” to count off each song, the Lips shouted and snarled their way into “Dirty Hands”, which sounded like Beatles gone gritty. The crowd responded gratefully, glad to have the chance to move and push, and proceeded to throw themselves into each other in a state of moshy mayhem. Between songs, the Lips made a series of snarky comments, one in particular stating, “(I’ll) set fire to your face and put it out with an axe.” The audience, meanwhile, ate these antics up, and at a few points managed to climb on stage before leaping off, hoping a few hands would catch them. It was evident from this performance that the Black Lips have a strong effect on their fans. They feed off of one another. With every crash and shout emoted by the band, the audience responds with another push and beer shower. Peering past the Black Lips’ response, however, one is left with disappointingly little. Despite their international adventures, the group’s aping of seminal sounds, and their boundless energy -- which should, in theory, produce an exceptional performance – the Black Lips hang about on stage acting empty-headed. They are talented, no doubt about it, but failed here to live up to their potential and promise. Are the Black Lips a gaggle of kids that just don’t care? Or is their basic emulation of psychedelic musicians of decades past the best they’ve got? When experimenting with East Asian twang or solidly placing a few pop chords together, the Black Lips seem capable of chilling out a bit and letting their potential flow. When there’s an audience to impress however, the band becomes boisterous, overblown, and, unfortunately, a little bit annoying.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

What makes Call Be By Your Name stand out from the films it will be compared to (Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight) is Guadagnino's play on juxtapositions, which go much deeper than merely an angsty teen with an introspective soul.

If you're a 17-year-old boy sorting out your sexuality, there has to be worse place to do it than the Northern Italian landscape of writer-director Luca Guadagnino's latest drama, Call Me By Your Name. It's 1983 and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalame) is the classic case of what psychologists call a social introvert: While flirting with a French girl in the countryside lake, he charms with a bad-boy air -- he's capable of passing as an extrovert and much more -- but he's obviously much more in his element alone. The summer days find him composing piano concertos by the family's pool or riding his bike through rural roads. His contradictions, broody but introspective, are seductive, much like the famed "bad boy" ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, who was arguably the most prolific dancer of his generation but broke high-culture norms by tattooing his torso and making tabloids with his late-night party-boy antics.

Keep reading... Show less

On new album 2017, Afropop artist Leila Gobi is a one-woman sugar rush.

There's a refreshing straightforwardness to Leila Gobi's music on new album 2017. Opening track "An Nia" begins with the quick, high-pitched guitar patterns that have become so integral to exported Malian pop, forming melodic loops that Gobi's nasal voice shoots through like a joyful arrow. The whole album follows suit, with thin electronics framing Gobi and her backup singers in repetitive dance tracks that are often minimal in texture but constantly pumping up the volume and energy.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.