REX’S RATING: 10 / 10
“I Don’t Wanna Go Home”
If you haven’t listened to the Black Lips before, then in order to truly enjoy the Underneath The Rainbow listening experience you’re going to need to get familiar with some of their past work. Maybe start off with this wicked track, then dabble around here a little bit before moving on to here and here, and then tip toe around here before you end off here. Actually, maybe while you’re at it, check out here and here too.
So now that you’ve got edumacated and stuff you can probably grasp what the Black Lips (and ultimately, Underneath The Rainbow) are/is all about. It’s hard to pin the band down to a specific, defined sound because that would be too boring and predictable. And the Black Lips are anything but boring and predictable. Their sole purpose is to evoke a reaction out of you before they violate you; but most importantly, they want your undivided attention. Badly. (Oh who am I kidding, they just want to violate you).
If you’re familiar with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, then you’re probably already well aware of the game that the Black Lips are trying to play here: They mirror past genres and classic rock greats to grab your attention, throw in a few odd-sounding instruments and vocals to make you kink your head a little bit and give a good, honest side-eye, and then finish you off by totally blowing your mind out of its skull. And by the time they’re done with you they’re either going to make you feel a wave of ultimate delight or total profound disgust. Do you laugh? Do you scoff? It’s all just part of playing the Black Lips’ game.
And with Underneath The Rainbow, the Black Lips continue to succeed at evoking all sorts of different emotions and reactions out of the listener. There’s songs that make you laugh (“Dorner Party”), songs that make you cry (“Dog Years”), and even songs that make you shit your pants in fear (“Do The Vibrate”). There’s also a palette of different sounds, instruments, vocals, rhythms, as well as screams, whoops, hollers and grunts. (And whistles. Don’t forget the whistles). Not to mention that “Boys In The Wood” is like the White Stripes-meets-George Harrison, “Drive-By Buddy” sounds like The Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “Dandelion Dust” sounds like Queens Of The Stone Age-meets-The Black Keys (and the fact that Patrick Carney produced seven out of the 12 tracks on the album is not lost on me).
But what I enjoyed most out of the album was its opener and closer, which are possibly two of the best songs I’ve heard from the group yet. The intro “Drive-By Buddy” sets the tone for the album perfectly with a nitty-gritty lo-fi version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and in doing so direct their focus on the album’s target audience: The outsiders. The Breakfast Club-ers. The kind of people who refuse to conform to normal, everyday society. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also the epic closer “Dog Years,” which acts as a sort of teary-eyed send-off as you prepare to finish the album and go about your merry way. And one of the highlights on the whole record for me is the epic half-spoken, half-chanted monologue at the song’s two minute mark:
“You came to the party and you stepped outside / You grabbed your Virginia Slim Ultra-Light Menthol 100s crushed soft pack / You lit a match and the puny flame could barely withstand the wind / You looked at me so wild / You blew smoke into my draping eyes / And it burned as the carbon dioxide activated my pulsating retinas / Staring back at you in awe / Like some cutting-edge piece of technological equipment / I knew you were the one.”
But as I’ve mentioned before, the Black Lips are always full of surprises; and even as a fan for many, many eons they still managed to shock-me-shock-me-shock-me with their deviant punk behaviour. I couldn’t help but be stunned after hearing the group tread into more poppy, surf punk territory – even though they’ve been dabbling around in that genre for the few past albums now – but on Underneath The Rainbow it comes out in full-force. Some fans and/or critics may not like this new vibe (best heard on tracks like ”Smiling,” “Make You Mine,” and “Waiting”), but I can gauran-fucking-tee that this is just part of the Black Lips’ plan, and their next album is bound to have a totally different genre thesis. And believe me, there WILL be another album. The almighty Black Lips are music-making nerds like that.
So on the one hand, I can see why the album has received such
uneducated mediocre reviews (maybe the critics should have followed my descriptive course outline at the start of this review??) But on the other hand, they succeeded at continuing to keep listeners on their toes, so the fact that the album still achieves at doing what the Black Lips have been doing all along proves that they haven’t changed their tune at all, even if the tune sounds different. All in all the album serves its purpose perfectly, and that’s to provide listeners with an album’s worth of head-turning rock & roll. And because of that I applaud the band for continuing to violate me, over and over again.