10 Jun 2017

Black Lips - Satan's Graffiti or God's Art (album review)

In 2014, The Black Lips released what was critically described as a last gasp swipe for the mainstream, Underneath The Rainbow, a fairly solid yet ultimately characterless affair. In all honesty,  a Black Lips record in 2017 seemed like the last thing that would cause any kind of intrigue to me. Lo and behold though, what we have here in their 2017 effort Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art is a conceptual, clever, but ultimately wild and uncontrollable record that is bafflingly good.

Chugging Gun Club fuckabouts like Lucid Nightmare might seem the most sonically appealing at first; this is classic Black Lips, why people fucking love them. But instead, no; the appeal of this record comes from the obnoxious amount of sonic ground they cover throughout.

Quite frankly it sounds like the band have spent the last three years listening to little but The Fat White Family, something you can infer from their freshly formed friendship with godlike genius and ex-Metros man Saul Adamczewski, who crops up on this album over and over again with his taut, lecherous vocals providing the perfect accompaniment to guitars that ooze, squeal and strut.

The most Fat White Family moment comes from the Phil Spector-esque glimmer of pristine pop Crystal Night, which - like the Brixton band’s Hits Hits Hits, and the natural successor to O Katrina!, the best song they released prior to this album - sets some dark, dark, dark (x100) lyrics to some pretty shimmering guitar caresses. A screenshot of teenage naivety of a young lovebird unaware of the fact that just-about-pre-war Nazi men have stolen away their Jewish sweetheart.

The Last Cul De Sac almost sounds like a deep south twist on The Fat Whites’ Auto Neutron, bearing similarities to the characteristically American early BJM records as the Black Lips saunter through sun-soaked, stuffy psych chords, whilst It Won’t Be Long sounds like a panic attack with call and response vocals that sound primal in their simplistic urgency.

The album’s centrepiece and highlight comes from the sequence of the aforementioned Crystal Night, and it’s preface Interlude: Got Me All Alone, which is this Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me strut, with filthy, sexy saxophones and a slow moving, creepy vocal. These two songs make up the best 7 minutes of consecutive recorded music on an album in 2017, a feat which will not be beaten, even if HMLTD rustle up an album by the end of the year.

As it segues out, peters out at the end with a spaghetti western spoken-word, snappy closer by the name of Sunday Mourning, on which Saul delivers nuggets of wisdom, what is obvious is this: for anyone who spends their entire life craving new material from the Fat White Family, or associated acts, this will plug the gap for a few months. No, more than that. All year. This is a genuinely fantastic album, the strongest all the way through of the band’s career. At 18 tracks and 55 minutes, it doesn’t even begin to drag; no mean feat. A premium slice of guttural garage rock, Black Lips, you’ve done good.


(Words: Cal Cashin)