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Black Lips- Underneath the Rainbow (Album Review)


For a band that burst on to the live circuit with such a wild reputation that it resulted in a fair few venue bans, it comes as a surprise to hear Atlanta’s Black Lips‘ plans for both the release of seventh studio album Underneath The Rainbow and the subsequent tour.

A ‘scented’ cassette version (yes, they still exist) is due for release and the band would appear to have been ‘scent’ crazy, with fans due to have their nasal senses as well as their auditory nerves massaged, as throughout the shows a number of smellies will be released upon the audience. These are due to include whiffs of denim, cedar and, erm, semen (“after eating many, many plums”, apparently).

Formed in 1999, the quartet have most recently been busy since 2011’s comparatively polished Arabia Mountain extensively touring the world, with the Middle East being the most unlikely of places for an American band to travel amongst the destinations. Indeed, the band believe that they are the first US group since The Grateful Dead in 1978 to have toured Egypt, for example.

With The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney on production duties for a number of tracks, Underneath The Rainbow has been recorded at various places from Nashville to New York as the band meld their usual abrasive garage punk rock with a touch of bluesy Southern rock. Opener Drive By Buddy is a perfect example of this, sounding something like a bunch of drunken hillbillies playing The Monkees’ Last Train To Clarksville, accompanied at one point by a most annoying alarm clock.

This isn’t the only track that sounds like the band have been replaced by an unusual group of individuals, with Make You Mine sounding like asylum escapees attempting to play 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and the same musical era also influences Smiling, with the singing drawing on the sloppy vocal style of The Libertines.

Dorner Party is a high tempo, fuzzy bass backed effort with a rather annoying chorus whilst Justice After All returns to a more familiar, garage punk sound with clanking guitars. Funny starts with clapping percussion and rolling guitars – imagine Ramones playing a Big Audio Dynamite track – but juvenile lyrics like “come suck some milk from my titties” somewhat spoil the music.

The best tracks all come in the second half of the album. The far slower and moodier blues effort Boys In The Wood is intoxicating, and with elements of The Clash’s quieter moments peppering Waiting, another highlight reveals itself through its strong, punchy melody.

Dandelion Dust is built around a solid 1970s inspired rocky riff whilst an older song is given a makeover in the shape of Dog Years, its simple chorus preceded by an intro and verses akin to The Velvet Underground meeting The Stooges. With Do The Vibrate – the sound of mental mayhem with woefully out of tune vocals – and the buzzing and whistling of I Don’t Wanna Go Home, the album is complete.

Underneath The Rainbow is more of an assault on the ears than anything else, although that’s mostly in a good way, as the band never lose sight of the style that first brought them success. Quite how the fragrances they plan to utilise at the gigs will work in tandem with the music is mystifying, but the intrigue of this plan, along with the quality of much of this latest offering, should be enough to fill out those upcoming shows in no time.