Music » Record Reviews

Atlanta garage-rockers dig deep, even after the gold rush.



Atlanta's Black Lips arrived fashionably late to the garage-rock trend that peaked in the early 2000s and has petered out in the years since. And yet, they wear their poor timing proudly, as if jumping dead trends were an act of punk rebellion. In addition to a handful of strong studio albums, they're known for their reckless live shows and joking nature, but below the snotty surface are musicians with a strong sense of history (they sample the Swamp Rats on their new album) and an aptitude for crafting sharp, retro-riffs beholden to no trend. In short, the Black Lips are Reigning Sound and the Dead Milkmen.

Good Bad Not Evil is the band's fourth and arguably best album, concocting and sustaining an ideal blend of humor, chops, and even a little gravity. "O Katrina!" is about you-know-what, complete with the line "You broke my heart way down in New Orleans." But this isn't a sappy ballad or jazzland-inspired number, but a suped-up rocker with a catchy call-and-response and outraged delivery by Cole Alexander. The naivete the band brings to the subject — the belief that a tragedy of this magnitude can be addressed with the same tone they might sing about girls or cars — is refreshing, even touching.

Better still is "How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died," which has a Ween title and a country-and-western sound. Sure enough, it begins with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but the punchline never comes: The Black Lips are generally concerned about death and innocence. "Keep him in your heart each and every day," Alexander counsels Little Suzy, whose father has passed away, "and there he will live on and never fade away."

Of course, not everything on Good Bad Not Evil is so thoughtful or thought-provoking. In fact, most of the album is stupid in the best way possible, grafting retro-riffs onto non-PC songs about squaw princesses ("Navajo"), warlords ("Slime & Oxygen"), and world religion ("Veni Vidi Vici"). Best of all is "Bad Kids," a rowdy anthem that manages to locate sympathy for the losers and delinquents caught between unloving parents and pill-dispensing doctors.

— Stephen Deusner

Grade: A-

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