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Album Review

Anarchy with a sense of craft

February 23, 2009
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Indie Rock
Black Lips 200 Million Thousand
Vice
ESSENTIAL "Starting Over"

A few weeks ago Black Lips guitarist Cole Alexander stripped off his clothes, dove into the crowd at Sir Mutha Venkata Subbarao Concert Hall in Chennai, India, scrambled back on to the stage, and made out with several of his bandmates. Par for the course for a Black Lips show, but not so cool with the Tamil authorities. Tour organizers freaked, the group fled through the emergency exit, police chased them across the country, and after going AWOL for a couple of days, the naughty lads from Atlanta escaped by air to Berlin.

Rock 'n' roll anarchy or bloggably delicious publicity? Probably a bit of both, and as such an apropos rollout for Black Lips' fifth studio album, "200 Million Thousand." Grimy and disheveled, clever and infectious, it's a sloppy heap of classic pop, psychedelic haze, spastic rock, and teenage disaffection mixed to lo-fi imperfection in some kid's filthy garage.

Of course, Black Lips aren't kids anymore; they made this album in a converted art gallery. And the screw-everything aesthetics barely disguise the fact that Black Lips have grown up into top-shelf songwriters. The bittersweet elegy "Starting Over"; the savage, cutting guitar work on the Doors-ian "Take My Heart"; the sheer surprise of "The Drop I Hold"; a woozy swerve into atmospherics - this is the work of a band deftly straddling wasted youth and serious craft. (Out tomorrow.)

JOAN ANDERMAN

Black Lips perform at the Middle East Downstairs on March 7.

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