Black Lips is no longer as wild on stage as it used to be. No reports of on-stage urination, masturbation, firecrackers, or other controversial activities have been reported in recent years. Despite its sordid past, present-day Black Lips may be defined simply as a garage rock band from Atlanta, Georgia.
Black Lips formed in 1999 in Dunwoody, Georgia, after guitarist Cole Alexander and bassist Jared Swilley left a local band called the Renegades. Currently, Black Lips is completed by saxophonist Zumi Rosow, drummer Oakley Munson, and guitarist Jeff Clarke. The band released its 10th and most recent studio album, Apocalypse Love, on October 14.
At Brooklyn Made, Black Lips made garage rock fun again. The band played a rough tapestry of Americana, blues, country, punk, and rockabilly, hemmed together by a foundational thread of twang. Raucous and unrefined, the speed and force of the music was driven by electrifying inertia and festive energy.
As uncomplicated as the music sounded on the surface, the arrangements were clever and subtle. Four of the five musicians alternated on lead vocals, with gang vocals frequently rallying the songs to crescendos. Rosow’s saxophone gave the songs an early rock and roll spirit. Searing guitar licks and crashing drums and cymbals livened the songs.
Most impressively, the five musicians seemed to have one unified mission, and that was to have an unhinged, reckless party on stage. The trajectory was not to make clean and calculated music, but to play good songs with a rambunctious, fire-burning spirit. Onstage, Black Lips was a band with personality, which made the show refreshingly vibrant, buoyant, and captivating.