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The Black Lips- ‘Good Bad, Not Evil’ (Album Review)

Judged solely on their music – fuzzy, chopped-at chords; blunt bass; restless drumming – the Black Lips are fairly ordinary, if highly capable, garage revivalists.

The Atlanta quartet has obviously studied its obscure ’60s-punk compilations, and it knows how to squawk and hammer for frenzied 3-minute intervals. Of course, so do a million other bands.

What’s different about the Lips is that they’re eerily unreadable. Lead singer Cole Alexander isn’t the most outwardly loony frontman in rock – you’ll rarely catch him shouting, for example – but his straight-faced, almost tossed-off delivery makes it hard to tell when he’s being serious.

As such, it’s easier to marvel at, than relate to, something like “How Do You Tell a Child,” a country song about explaining death to a youngster. The same goes for “Katrina,” which personifies the deadly hurricane of the same name, imagining her as a cold-hearted lover.

Guitarist Ian St. Pe is from New Orleans, so it’s not a totally irreverent move, but it doesn’t exactly feel like healing through laughter, either.

Perhaps the rationale for much of what the band does comes on “Bad Kids,” a wad of bubblegum pop stuck to the bottom of a school desk. It’s a sympathetic rallying call for juvenile delinquents, offering explanations for bad behavior, not apologies.