BLACK LIPS - Underneath the Rainbow LP
Includes download code.
Even as they cleaned up their sound, Black Lips’ best records since have kept the same grit, glam, and grime they had at the beginning. Mark Ronson’s production on Arabia Mountain‘s “Family Tree”, for example, had a vintage, musty record store atmosphere to it, with saxophones and arrangements that made them sound like they were auditioning to be Rufus Thomas’ backing band. With Ronson, they proved that their unrefined songs could still hit with an A-list producer. So the fact that they recorded in Nashville with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney on seven of Underneath the Rainbow’s 12 tracks isn’t something to dismiss out of hand.
But another producer is responsible for the album’s best songs. Four tracks were recorded in New York with Tom Brenneck, who worked with the band on Arabia Mountain and played guitar for Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse, Cee-Lo Green, and others. “Smiling”, a song about spending the night in jail, is the first in a run of Brenneck-recorded highlights. It was originally intended to be about Gucci Mane, but, thankfully, Jared Swilley had the sense to to base it on his own experience behind bars. He sings about pissing in a cup, not being able to sleep because of the fluorescent lights, and sharing old Newports, and the details, when added to the song’s sunny and catchy melody, lend a grinning, toothless charm, not unlike what they exuded on “Dirty Hands”. Brenneck also oversees “Make You Mine”, the expertly crafted power pop song co-written with Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, and “Funny”, which features what are probably the album’s dumbest lyrics (“come suck some milk from my titties”) and a careeningly tenuous vocal performance from Cole Alexander. Here, the band find their old fire, juvenile as it may be.