Tuesday Rock City: Black Lips, Pan-American

Tuesday Rock City: Black Lips, Pan-American was originally published on Black Plastic Bag on Feb. 24, 2009, at 2:10 pm

Black Lips : 200 Million Thousand (Vice)
The dumber Black Lips act, the better off they are. The closer the Atlanta-based garage rock quartet teeters towards total brain death, the more interesting their music becomes.
And by that virtue, Black Lips are in good shape these days. If the band was only huffing paint on ’07s Good Bad, Not Evil then on 200 Million Thousand, the band’s most recent record, they’re eating the desiccant packs out of the Slim Jim jar. Pure idiocy abounds. There’s the marble-mouthed surf rock of “Drugs”, or the lisping b-movie psychedelia of “Trapped in the Basement”—both of which are so sloppy, so half-baked, that you kind of have to admire the level of intoxication the band must have had to get to in order to a sufficiently shambolic take. There are, of course, some pretty good straightforward rock songs too (See “Short Fuse” and “Body Combat”). But any one of a hundred bands could have written those songs. The slurry Wu-Tang homage of “The Drop I Hold– where singer Cole Alexander rhymes “Vietnam” with “Black-Lips-dot-com in Islam”—takes a special kind of genius, if you would call it that. During an interview Nick Cave was once asked to comment on the cartoon rat that graced the cover of The Birthday Party’s Junkyard. “Good rock and roll has to know when to be stupid,” he said. On 200 Million Thousand, Black Lips know.

Black Lips: “Short Fuse”

: White Bird Release (Kranky)
Few early ’90s post-rock veterans can claim as much enduring influence as Mark Nelson. The billowing guitar drones that he made as both as a member of Labradford and under his solo moniker, Pan-American, showed a whole generation of young guitarists that you didn’t need chops, at least so long as they could afford some cool foot-pedals to play with. But the next generation hasn’t really managed to lap Nelson yet. On White Bird Release, his first Pan-American effort since 2006’s For Waiting, for Chasing, Nelson’s vocabulary of lilting and slightly ominous textures still do the trick. The grainy e-bow drones of “So That No Matter” blurs into the processed percussion of “How Much Progress One Makes” and finally the chilly cymbal washes of “Dr. Robert Goddard.” It’s all basically one long-ass note, and one that Nelson has been playing for a long time, but it’s a good note.

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