Singing unashamedly in their Georgia accents, like there’s a missing tooth to match the bruised mouth, Black Lips sound mean.
Mean like a sharpened set of canines, like rusty barbed wire, like a grizzly with a hangover. Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? is both.
Harking back to a time when LPs were played backwards and The Stones were the heralds of Beelzebub, Black Lips on this, their latest album, have indeed left a scrawled tag on this world.
Though whether you believe it’s Lucifer’s or The Lord’s depends on your spiritual standing with this whole rock n’ roll thing.
The fuzzed guitars and spirit-soaked vocals are certainly what many a believer has denounced as “satanic”. And with song titles like Squatting In Heaven… if the fundamentalists weren’t busy crucifying the righteous they’d be roaring “blasphemy!”
But, on the other hand, this is also a tremendous statement of individuality.
It’s never been more unfashionable to be in a rock n’ roll band. To do so, in as original a fashion as The Lips have done on Satan’s Graffiti… is a remarkable stance to take in the 21st century.
It’s not without precedent. The americana-tinged punk rock of tracks like Lucid Nightmare or Occidental Front do bring to mind such groups as The Gun Club or The Cramps. But, Black Lips here have managed to combine the primal wail with the craftsman’s care.
The book-length, 18-track record is full to bursting with psychedelic hooks. The riffs jump out of the speakers like cornered animals and the vocals sink their teeth in and tear a chunk out of one’s complacent psyche. This is “get up off your ass” stuff.
Even if it’s just to boogie down. Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art, by turns urgent and lamenting, though never mournful, is an arresting and vital record.
‘Cause it’s a record Black Lips wanted to make. Not “wanted to make cos it’ll go multi-platinum.” Not “wanted to make so we’ll be on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” This is just a simple, meat and potatoes, HONEST record.
And in this age, where shallowness and superficiality are hailed as desirable personality traits, it’s rare that any artist will be able to say that’s what they did.
So if this isn’t “God’s art” then nothing is. This is standing on the balls of your feet with your teeth bared and saying “fuck y’all.”
It’s in the declaration of independence folks, it’s in the constitution. Not just the right, but the responsibility to say “fuck y’all.”
Or maybe The Devil really does have all the best tunes.
by James Fleming