By Al Kaufman
Every artist has that moment when they wish to be taken seriously. They make that attempt to branch out and not get pigeon-holed. The Jim Carreys and Will Ferrells of the world perform dramatic roles. The U2s release messes like Zooropa. In 2009, Atlanta’s Black Lips released 200 Million Thousand. It was an attempt to show they were not selling out after the success of their 2007 album, Good Bad Not Evil, but only proved that they could put out big jumbled messes with the best of them.
The Lips are back. With producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse) at the helm for Arabia Mountain (the first time they have used a producer), they have returned to their unique 21st century version of ’60s garage rock. And while 16 tracks usually make for a bloated album, many of the songs here, including “New Direction,” are simply two minutes of pop dynamite.
Arabia Mountain opens with “Family Tree.” A punk surf rock ditty that recalls The Cramps, it sets the tone for things to come. “Raw Meat” is something The Ramones would have been happy to call their own. “Dumpster Dive” harks back to the early, bluesy Stones. “Spidey’s Curse,” which examines the darker side of Peter Parker, has a certain pop-psychedelica, Roky Erickson quality to it, while “Don’t Mess Up My Baby” has a Bo Diddley beat. Many of the songs are a mix of all the above mentioned styles, with some tenor saxes and musical saws thrown in for good measure.
And there’s that particular “boys will be boys” humor. “Modern Art” talks of how confining it can be to be in an art museum while tripping. They pay tribute to the controversial mascot of the Atlanta Braves with “Noc-A-Homa,” emphatically stating that “he ain’t no stinking coward.”
This is fun, summertime, head-bopping rock. Yes, it’s catchy as hell, but that ain’t a bad thing.