Black Lips – Under the Rainbow (Review)


Written by Ellen Chen

The Black Lips has been around for quite a while already, and to me they have always seemed like the archetype of an American bad-boy band in the same vein as the Rolling Stones. Their newest project, their eighth album Underneath the Rainbow, has had much anticipation because it is co-recorded with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. Hailing from Atlanta, the Black Lips have been reputed for their raucous songs and incorporating a musky country twang into their tunes.

Underneath the Rainbow lives up to the rock band’s past works with brash lyrics and noisy guitar loops; however, in this new album, one can discover an influence of raw blues rock as well, which acts as a balance to the rebellious garage-punk style of the 60’s. Imagine the Strokes with a good dose of swampy Southern rock.

The album’s first song “Drive By Buddy” is a nod to the band’s Southern roots. The fast strumming of the electric guitar and carefree rowdy chorus of this song can also be found in “Make You Mine”, “Dorner Party”, and “Justice After All”. Moreover, explicit country influences can be found in the interludes of harmonica in “Make You Mine”. Keeping the flow of the songs spontaneous, the album mixes in bass-heavy and slower -tempo songs like “Do the Vibrate” and “Boys in the Woods”. Carney’s influence seems to be prevalent in songs like “Do Vibrate” and “Waiting” which sounds similar to the work of the Black Keys; this influence could help the band to be more accessible to a wider range of audience, with a sound similar to today’s popular genre of indie rock.

Most of the album contains a free-spirited nature that goes hand in hand with images of youth and the cheap love of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The lyrics of some of the songs illustrate that carefree nature as well as a recklessness that is usually overlooked. “Smiling” ironically sings out “So call the cops/Tell ’em to come pick me up/They’ll break out the cuffs/When I get there I’ll act tough/Nurse can take my blood and pills”. The “Boys in the Woods”, the album’s first single, is a dark song where lead singer Cole Alexander’s laid-back voice contrasts the song’s grim undertones.

I believe that the songs of this album can appeal to many different types of audience because of the variety of styles it has. I can see fans of the “Blink-182” appreciating “Dog Years” for its drumbeat and Jimi Hendrix or Red Hot Chilli Pepper listeners enjoying “Funny”.

Underneath the Rainbow is a messy affair of sleeziness and masculinity, an album for sitting in a garage, drinking beer while the paint is peeling off, and still feeling like a total badass.

RIYL: Ty Segall, The Rolling Stones

Rating: W-P-G

Highlights: “Dog Years”, “Smiling”, “Boys in the Woods”

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