Ah, The Black Lips, a name I know well, and am sad I cannot name a single song by them. Please don't hate me for that fact - there are simply not enough hours in the day to hear everything in the world!
While I'm not as familiar as I'd like with their previous music to know the different, Arabia Mountain is said to come to us with a tighter, cleaner sound than before. The songs are all extremely brief, with only two outlasting the three minute mark. In the words of the iTunes summary, "the whole album surges by in a blurred rush of hook-filled adrenaline on first listen." Oh boy, this one should be interesting then.
No, seriously, I'm actually thrilled to have made it to this point along my list!
"Family Tree" starts things off and hits us hard almost immediately! Damn, we're in for a treat if the pace and energy is going to be kept this high throughout the whole thing. The vocals are haunting in a really cool and different way, with a dark sound I can only attribute to the tone of "True Blood" (June, please get here faster). The guitar lends itself for the same thing, even with the top layer sounding just a little more pop. The sound isn't entirely clean, but I think it's the recording style chosen.
Warning... this kick-off video? Not for the weak-stomached. Or religious.
Track two is "Modern Art," full of much more old-rock sound, with a twist of fun that the style was meant to have. We're not hearing a ton of voices together this time - there's a clear lead, instead of a group like the first song. Interestingly enough, and fantastically enough, the band keeps their own sound from one track to another, without sounding so boringly the same that we zone out. Please keep this up.
"Spidey's Curse" has a very 60's sound to it, and almost does sound like it belongs on a tribute to the Spider-Man himself. This came unexpectedly, given the first two track, but it's kind of just a cool, cute, fun track. Oh, wait, there's "Peter Parker" in the lyrics - heh, okay, cool, it is about what it should be. I don't know, there's just something cute about it, while maintaining their cool rock band edge.
The horns come into full play with "Mad Dog," largely in the form of a saxophone. It makes for a funky little track that modernizes a slight big-band sound mixed with garage punk rock. Lot's of tones of anger in the voice, but a track with listenable qualities throughout. I hate only streaming through iTunes - I'm missing out on about 3/4 of this track which otherwise sounds like it has potential.
"Mr. Driver" has a very loud sound to it. The track isn't like, screaming at us, but it's reminiscent of the old punk songs of the 80's, where things are harsher and almost want to hurt your ears. At least here, there is some backing off in the slight instrumental breaks, making it more of a dance track than something to thrash about to. There's a definite rawness to the track, which is probably where I'm getting those old punk vibes from.
Again, a cool old 60's feel to the guitar for "Bicentennial Man," but with the raw sound that the whole album is made up of. I'd say surf feel, but I'm going to avoid that description until the last possible second, because I just don't think that's where they were trying to go. In reality, even if Gidget would make up a great beach party dance to this track, they remain this odd little punk band that seems to just play to have fun and get some adrenaline out.
"Go Out and Get It" takes that same sound from the last track, but adds some grit into the recording and harmonies to create something I don't believe I've ever heard before. There's just too many places it could fit in - beach/coastal music, punk, garage, etc. What is striking me is that someone on iTunes didn't know what they were talking about with their review. This is not a clean, crisp sounding album. Again, I've never heard the older music, but if that had a dirtier sound than this, we probably weren't actually able to understand anything. This is tough enough - definitely not clean.
More whistles added, but generally the same sound is going for "Raw Meat." I'm disapointed for the first time, because it sounds almost exactly the same as a few previous tracks, and I was so excited that they took different approached with each song. The songs are short though, so maybe the band just felt they didn't quite get their point across in the last song, and carried on into this one. Let's blame Spotify's lack of streaming ability for this one for why I'm not loving every second.
"Bone Marrow" (under the meat) breaks the habit, a little. The high-pitched odd, metallic sounds are still there, but the guitar has chosen a new direction. Percussion is just a bass drum and clapping for a while, and the song itself sounds incredibly stripped down, even for an original version. It's pretty damn cool, actually. If the echo was backed off just a little, it's might be perfect, but I'll take this!
They weren't kidding about the pace though - we haven't slowed down yet, and it doesn't like that'll be happening anytime soon. Poor drummer. "The Lie" does have a more dense tone to it though, bringing in some much more minor sounds throughout. The vocals are full of gravel in a much angrier way. The lyrics for the chorus are pretty simple, pointing out "that's what you told me," just to make their point.
Here's the thing about "Time." The instrumentals sound almost exactly the same as "The Lie" (aside from the occasional little guitar riff to separate parts of the song), but the vocals are at a different pitch, giving a slight different tone to the song as a whole. Again, I think these sort of 'sections' of the album are meant to be heard in a steady stream, so that we can better appreciate the differences between tracks while knowing they're meant to compliment each other.
I don't usually resort to this quality of video for posts, but trust me, it doesn't differ much from the album. Here's a live performance of the song from Atlanta.
More beach theme coming on with "New Direction," but the happiness that comes from the vocal tone compliments it in a more traditional way. It's also incredibly optimistic sounding, which is a new thing for this particular collection of songs. This could be a great morning song to enjoy in the comfort of a room with the hairbrush microphone.
Read the description in this next video.
"Noc-a-Homa" knocks off the beach sound in favor for the more punk side of things. There's a louder voice with some effect on it that sounds like a slight buzz at the end of each word. If you've seen old videos of the original punk bands of the 70's/80's, you'll probably understand what I'm talking about here. It's a little annoying, but acceptable given the situation and style chosen to go with. Still though, not clean.
Echo, echo, echo, and all at the beach. Listen to "Don't Mess Up My Baby" and tell me you don't hear it, and I'll smack some sense into you. It's all there - from the voices full of echo on the mics, to the Beach Boys-esq guitar backing, to the habaloo drum beat. You heard me. It's also the lightest song on the entire album. The only reason it ties in is because of those earlier tracks that had a similar backing/sound. Maybe that was all to lead up to this complete beach party take over so that the album still had a semblance of unity?
Final track - "You Keep On Running." Here's something completely different - slowed down, drawn out playing. Harmonies with multiple voices hitting notes that are a little inappropriate for their natural middle range. And overall, a creepy tone that would make for an entirely different concert than anything we've heard thus far. It's just plain weird.
Added to My Playlist (if the album were on Spotify... damn it):
- "Modern Art"
- "Spidey's Curse"
- "Go Out and Get It"
- "Bone Marrow"
- "New Direction"