Time certainly flies. Having seen Black Lips only last summer at Primavera Sound it hardly seems possible that it’s in fact three years since they released Underneath The Rainbow. Three it is though and Satan's Graffiti Or God's Art? is here to progress the band’s story further.
Clearly it’s an ambitious work, comprising as it does 18 songs. Have they over-reached themselves or will this prove to be their magnum opus?
Stylistically Black Lips aren’t really a band that can go anywhere new. Sure they can work with the likes of Mark Ronson to tweak their sound one way or the other but ultimately they have a limited palate to work with, which is fair enough & so we can’t really expect anything drastic from them on this their eighth album in 14 years.
Sean Lennon’s behind the controls on this one & for that reason or some other his mum is involved on backing vocals on one track or other. I’ve not let that put me off and you shouldn’t let it influence you either.
Expanded to a five-piece with a new drummer & the addition of a saxophonist (along with the return of guitarist Jack Hines after 13 years) Black Lips open up Satan's Graffiti Or God's Art? with ‘Overture : Sunday Mourning’, surely a sign that something serious is about to go down.
Initially it seems like business as usual – the band pound away in the style you’d expect with the saxophone adding an interesting extra texture to things (it’s not quite The Zutons but Zumi Rosow makes her presence felt). Three (proper) songs in the pace slows, with the country tinged ‘The Last Culdesac’ followed by the sleazy stomp of ‘Got Me All Alone’ reining things back.
Is ‘Crystal Night’ an ode to a love lost on Kristallnacht? If so then the Pinky & Perky vocal effects could easily be viewed as disrespectful. Then again maybe it’s about getting wasted on meth. Either way it kind of sets the tone for the disjointed nature of the remainder of the album – pairs of upbeat tracks broken up by cod ballads in the pseudo country & western style the band favour now and again.
At the halfway point there’s an Interlude (‘Elektrik Spiderwebz’) which further disrupts the flow. Blur did this sort of thing much better on Modern Life Is Rubbish.
Ultimately Satan's Graffiti Or God's Art? offers up no surprises and nor is it the band’s crowning glory. It’s a Black Lips album so maybe you weren’t expecting much more than it delivers anyway. They rarely sound like they’re trying very hard and this certainly maintains that studiedly laidback approach. It’s fine, you’ll still be playing it in years to come.