Black Lips Arabia Mountain(Vice) Buy it from Insound
The Black Lips always seem to start off albums well, and then succumb to slower songs that don’t well represent them or deep track experimentation that, while admirable, often bores the listener. Their better albums avoid this and stick to the goofy, fun garage rock they’ve mastered. 2009’s 200 Million Thousand had a few great songs early in the album, but faded so much in the stretch that I don’t think I made it through more than a few full listens. Luckily, Arabia Mountain finds a spot-on formula early on and doesn’t stray.
Opener Family Tree sets the tone, and does so quite well. It’s loud, fun and straightforward. They keep the volume up the whole album, and wisely so. Their long stretches of slow songs have been incredibly dull in the past. The songs where they do slow down are better than they used to be, like the delightfully silly Spidey’s Curse, and they’re quick to follow it up with something fast paced. They bring more brass instruments along for the ride this time, and it’s a welcome addition. The songs that featured brass before always benefited.
They seem to have finally figured out how to sequence an album, spreading out the best songs and arranging them by feel and tempo for maximum effect. It makes Arabia Mountain go by quick, just as an album full of garage rock with limited scope should. Dragging it on for more than its 40 minutes would have been a huge mistake. The Black Lips are more entertainment than art, and they’re exceptional at it. When they have that goal in mind, the result is a fun, easy summer record, sure to satisfy.
Arabia Mountain is their best album since Good Bad Not Evil (still their finest hour). It’s a big step up from their last record, showcasing a more focused band than ever before. They haven’t changed their sound much, but more of the same is hardly a problem when it’s this enjoyable. It’s not music that’s meant to challenge. It’s simple, classic garage rock, great for driving on sunny days and playing as loud as your stereo can go.14 June, 2011 - 10:45 — Andrew Baer