Album review: Black Lips' 'Arabia Mountain'
Mark Ronson knows a thing or two about handling boozy, misanthropic musicians (he produced Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” after all). But on the Atlanta rock band Black Lips’ latest, he plays less of a cleanup man and more of an enabler. The Lips are known for spilling all sorts of alcoholic and bodily effluvia at their insane live sets, and Ronson gives them an open bar of sounds to try on “Arabia Mountain.”
From the sweaty sax skronk of “Mad Dog” to the goofy singing saw of “Modern Art,” the flourishes are a nice addition to the Lips’ long-standing affection for mind-dripping ’60s proto-punk. But the production hits a sweet spot when their ramshackle playing stays intact but still prizes clarity.
The airy “Spidey’s Curse” is maybe the most tender thing in their catalog, and “Raw Meat” has a bit of the Go-Go’s’ beachy bounce. “Noc-A-Homa” even tries an endearingly bratty stab at Stax Records’ R&B, if the label’s house band had a backyard meth lab. The Lips’ catalog is exhaustingly long, but “Arabia Mountain” is a fine reassertion that its talents extend far beyond running from venue security.
Two stars (Out of four)
— August Brown