Black Lips have a reputation for being hell-raisers who’ve been banned from numerous venues after indulging in on stage urination, penile guitar-playing, and vomiting. This behaviour has been drawn from punk’s spirit of provocation but the Atlanta outfit have always crashed garage and psych-rock into more far-reaching styles. It’s some of their less obvious influences that are brought to the fore on ninth album ‘Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart’.
Trading filthy guitar licks for country blues, its twelve tracks attempt to subvert a genre that’s undergone something of a fashion revival in recent months, from Lil Nas X taking country into hip-hop and Orville Peck being a gay rodeo. They don’t pander to the usual clichés – the tracks replace liquor and heartbreak with Route 66 and illegal loggers – but neither do they reinvent the wheel. It’s a trade-off between incitement and tradition that Cole Alexander seems to address when he creaks, ‘This old middle finger has grown fat and tired from flicking the bird.’
Recorded directly onto tape, the material retains the ragged energy of a live performance. Alexander’s southern drawl is frayed, instruments are on the brink of collapse, and the mood is reminiscent of throwing out time in a grimy honky-tonk. It sounds like the band are having a blast while playing the Rolling Stones’ ‘Beggars Banquet’ in the style of Primal Scream who are badly imitating Dylan.
At their most louche is the southern-fried twang of ‘Hooker Jon’ and ‘Gentleman’, which combines slide guitar with Muscle Shoals style saxophone and a chorus that’s destined for end of set singalongs. At the opposite extreme is the Velvet Underground-isms of ‘Get It On Time’ and weeping barroom blues of ‘Chainsaw’.
This iteration of the band is mildly entertaining but it’s probably best enjoyed live and when very drunk.