A band birthed from controversy and dissension, The Black Lips released their first album in over three years, and the overdue release couldn’t be set for a larger impact. Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? was released May 5th release through Vice Records, making it their 8th full-length studio effort. The album’s producer, Sean Lennon, inspires musical evolution within the quintet while simultaneously retaining the group’s signature scuzzy, Southern-fried, garage sound. At a time where popular music skews towards the polished and expected, the Black Lips unleash an anarchic torrent of sonically captivating rock n’ roll that is as unhinged, as it is ambitious.
Founding members, Cole Alexander and Jared Swilley, are approaching two decades of making music together and Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? reflects the visceral synchronicity of two outlaws who’ve somehow survived countless standoffs. “Occidental Front” introduces our heroes in a grandiose psych-Western fashion, which serves a proper introduction for the 18-track odyssey.
“Can’t Hold On” brings a radio-friendly catchiness that combines the Black Lips trademark rowdiness with jolting choruses and urgent guitar solos. “Got Me All Alone” channels Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with its bayou-esque blues and drunken sloppy vocals. Starkly juxtaposed, “Crystal Night” follows with its manicured upbeat melody that tells a story of romance during the Nazis fascist takeover during the historic Kristallnacht. There isn’t anywhere that the Black Lips won’t go, and while the album’s cameos include Yoko Ono and the Fat White family’s, Saul Adamczewski, the majority of the album is a disjointed kaleidoscope of non-sequiturs and carnival-like one-offs that cling to a common streak of rebel rousing rock n’ roll.
With each song as brilliant and spastic as the next, the realization that this record split into a double album, dawns on the listener with eureka-like laughability, since the concept is either indecipherable or non-existent. “In My Mind There Is A Dream” has a synth-driven psychosis that is woven into its cinematic noir theme. “Come Ride With Me” beats like a timpani with its anthemic chorus and ear-worm mantra of repetitive lyrics. The band’s brilliance is never more lucid than on the Beatles cover “It Wont Be Long”, which is a golden era 60’s nugget that taps perfectly into the band’s swagger and bravado in a warped nightmarish way.
Like a melancholic sing-a-long playing as the credits roll “Loser’s Lament” is a piano diddy that tops off the album, leaving the listener to ruminate on the brilliant insanity that comprises yet another Black Lips album. An eerie spoken word called “Finale Sunday Morning” by the tragically troubled Saul Adamczewski floats out as he mumbles “He looked at me and said, Saul you’re a miserable man, and he had a bag of magic beans.” Nonsensical, unbridled, and undeniably endearing; the Black Lips are a Rorschach test of artistry that, nearly twenty years in, have yet to lose their rebellious lost-boy mystique.