Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart is a near-perfect offering from the Atlanta-based rock ‘n’ roll mainstays, Black Lips. The catch here is this is a country record. Titillating twang is provided by newish guitarist Jeff Clarke, harmonica and sax accents by Zumi Rosow, time kept by the trap-slapping Oakley Munson, and the two-headed demon baby of Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander singin’ and thumpin’ on bass and guitar. Gone is the Morphine/Tom Waits-esque artsy-experimentalism of their last effort, God’s Art or Satan’s Graffiti. That was met with divided critical interpretation, enjoyed ten-fold by yours truly and covered by me at this great magazine just a couple of years ago.
Black Lips have longed to make a country release, and the timing of Clarke’s lack of a band and the Lips’ lack of a guitarist was impeccable. Clarke’s guitar style cuts through like a fifth dimension Ralph Mooney sans pedals, kneebars, fingerpicks, and a bar slide, yet he certainly gets the point across. The Lips concoct a lustful mix of cocaine country, psych stomp, and honky-tonk fire and brimstone on this effort, highlighting the cohesiveness and raw power of this version of the group now close to a couple of years old. The songs are phenomenal, true-to-form classic country story-telling set to rave-ups and quintessential Black Lips weirdness through a new lens. Equally finding solace in a dingy Texas honky-tonk as a Mos Eisley spaceport cantina on Tatooine.
From Cole’s opener, the cantankerous ill repute themed oddity, “Hooker Jon”, to Swilley’s possible ode to his great Uncle who very well may have been forever immortalized as a GI Joe character both in real life and song form (hear the first single “Rumbler” for more on that)
In a World That’s Falling Apart will spend ample time on your decks or headphones. An auditory delight for anyone in the know, or out of it, for that matter. “Georgia” is the best Waylon song that Waylon never wrote. For those who feared that Black Lips’ precious lo-fi essence has subsided, never fear. “Odelia” brings that in a sequined nudie suit just as “Dishonest Man” brings it in a pompadour and black leather.
Black Lips have completely resuscitated something here. It’s not new or old, intentional, or accidental, not from a place of contrive or a desire to fit in an already oddly shaped hole. These are artists making art, a bunch of fellas from the South and a bad-ass woman from LA who take comfort in obtuse lo-fi garage rock, pouring it out on a killer country record. It’s sacred ground for a whole other realm, one which may be way better than the one we mettle in on the day today. “Live fast, die slow, in a world that’s falling apart.”