The Black Lips - Biography
The Black Lips make good old fashion garage rock with a psychedelic slant. Period. You know what you’re going to get with these guys — straight to the point good times jams with a bit of chaotic paranoia and blissed out noise thrown in for good measure. Since the early part of the ‘00s the quartet has gained a reputation not only for its infectiously rough mixture of punk, ‘60s garage rock, blues and psych-rock, but for its unpredictable live shows known to include public urination, fights, band members making out with each other and even some vomiting. Good times.
Formed in Dunwoody, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, while the members were still teenagers, The Black Lips started life in 1999. Born from the ashes of local punk bands the Renegades and the Reruns, the group consisted of bassist Jared Swilley, guitarist Ben Eberbaugh and guitarist Cole Alexander. Drummer Joe Bradley joined soon after and the band released its first two 7” singles in 2002 on the self-run Die Slaughterhaus label.
Sadly, Ben Eberbaugh was hit and killed by a drunk driver in December 2002. The band decided Eberbaugh would want them to continue to play.
The group’s debut full-length was released in ’03 on Bomp! Records. Black Lips! is a sweaty mix of churning R&B, ‘60s psych and dark and dirty garage rock. These guys aren’t playing around with retro this or that. These songs are dangerous, they project menace and the band sounds dead serious. Reverb soaked freakouts like “I’ve Got A Knife” and “Sweet Kin,” which deals with incest like most people would talk about going shopping, are scuzzy, degenerate rock tunes of the highest order.
Eberbaugh was replaced by longtime band friend Jack Hines and the band recorded its second studio album We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow. Released on Bomp! in ’04, the record expands on the sound of the debut. Lyrically still very dark and unsettling, tracks like “Stranger,” “Ghetto Cross” and “Time of the Scab” prove that the Black Lips’ worldview is pretty bleak, defined by perversion and mental illness albeit delivered with a dark sense of humor.
Hines left the band in ’04 and was replaced by Ian St. Pe, another longtime friend. Constant touring gained the band attention from Rolling Stone, Spin and the New York Times over the next three years. The group released a flood of material during the time including countless singles and its third full-length. Let It Bloom was released on In The Red Recordings in ’05.
The Black Lips signed with Vice Records in 2007 and immediately released a studio album, five singles and two live albums. Good Bad Not Evil was the band’s proper studio album for Vice but it was Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo, recorded live in Tijuana, that completely steals the show. The album perfectly captures the live insanity of the band, boasting a live wire, unhinged sound and some killer garage punk that seethes with energy.
After an endless stream of singles for labels like Rob’s House, Norton, Sub Pop and Southern Comfort, the Black Lips released its fifth studio album on Vice in ’09. 200 Million Thousand may feature a slightly tighter, more focused sound but the band works its trademark shambolic swagger into a sweaty frenzy. Rugged and raw songs filled with catchy hooks and ‘60s inspired vocal melodies continue to reign. Tracks like the sleazy “Drugs” and the take-no-prisoners rawk of “Take My Heart” are classic Black Lips. The band surprises with the (relatively) tender jangle and regretful lyrics of “Starting Over,” as well as the slightly off the mark sound collage of “I Saw God” that closes the record. Overall the album continues to cement the reputation of the band as modern garage rock’s real deal.