Black Lips give a death rattle at the Turf

Categories: Concert Review
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Look through a slideshow of photos from the Black Lips show.

Even the bar is shaking. The floor is throbbing as if one misplaced pounce would cause it to collapse and the packed house to fall to their deaths. The best part is, no one would notice. Broken limbs would still vibrantly twitch out their last electric pulses. Smiles would be frozen for eternity, with froth still glistening on lips. The few, frantic survivors would race into the streets to start a herky-jerk dance party. Sociologists would blame the phenomenon on "a state of shock." Police would say it was a "drunken riot." Music writers would call it "yer average Black Lips show."

Back in "reality," the audience is stuck in a trance. They're throbbing and rolling their heads around on floppy necks. A patron enjoys a brief bout of crowd surfing as onlookers get sucked into a mosh pit that is more about hip dance moves than rage and violence. Creepy men press their privates into unsuspecting dancing girls. Burly guys bulldoze through the front rows in attempts to pull their dates closer to the spark of madness. But, unfortunately, no one is bleeding. The only improper liquid is the drool dripping from guitarist Ian Saint Pe's golden grill. That's right--a grill. Guitarist Cole Alexander is wearing a pilgrim hat and a poncho. And the smoke machine is spitting out so much white gas, at times only the nightmarish gaze of singer Jared Swilley is visible.

Black Lips know mind control. They know how to swing a crowd from impassioned crossed arms to bullshit insanity. And they know it has less to do with music and more with manic posturing. Black Lips' music is not tha inspiring. It's actually terribly derivative. One moment they sound like a reincarnated Strawberry Alarm Clock with an overdose of psyched-out drone and sci-fi atmospherics. The next song they sound like a riff-raff rockabilly band with garbled vocals and speedy guitar lines. The four piece prefers to tag their sound as "flower punk."

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This is not to say the music isn't good. It's amazing. "I Got A Knife" is braying and full of drunken sass and incoherent call and response. "Bad Kids" is an inviting sock hop with jingle bells and drug references and talk of "paying child support." "Starting Over," off the newly released 200 Million Thousand, is bright and jangly with a Revolver-worthy guitar solo.

But none of this matters. Black Lips don't care about honing their skills. They care about not caring. If they dropped out of the rock and roll circuit to pursue degrees in percussion or decided to take time off for professional vocal training--even if they wanted to salvage their remaining brain cells to focus on reading a novel in their spare time--they wouldn't be the same. The Turf Club would be a ghost town tonight. The scant audience members would walk around in a Hallmark daze, musing about the beauty of life. Black Lips fans don't want that crap. They want to feel Satan at their fingertips. They want to do the dance of the dead. They want to thump their heels on the floor and shake themselves into total submission. And Black Lips, the fresh face of a twisted new rebellion, know they could get the audience to sacrifice themselves to rock and roll with only the tap of a tom tom. This is a huge responsibility left in the power of misfits. Their story will end in a tragedy like mass suicide or ritual bloodletting. It will be the fodder for rock biographers for decades. But at least it will be a good read.


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