Black Lips, '200 Million Thousand' (Vice)

Critical Mass
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by David Peisner

Across four albums, Black Lips have made sloppinessan aesthetic choice. Their live shows have the feel of a bunch of blitzed teenagers spazzing out on borrowed instruments in a friend's basement. Their records sound like extended pranks. But amateurish charm grows tedious, even when delivered with the balls-out energy this quartet routinely generates. Fortunately, buried beneath the Lips' psychedelic slop heap are surprisingly exacting pop hooks, clever musical experiments, and insidious grooves that belie the band's wastrel image.

"Drugs," the second track on the Atlanta jesters' fifth album, exemplifies the lips' appealing dichotomy: It's an ode to getting fucked-up with hookers in the backseat of your car, sung by bassist Jared Swilley in a suitably unhinged wail, but set to an impossibly infectious 1950s sock-hop beat. On "Starting Over," Cole Alexander sounds like he's singing into a half-empty tin of creamed corn, but his woozy slurs are buffeted by a warm, jangling guitar line nicked from the La's' "There She Goes."

But the most intriguing tune here is "The Drop I Hold," a stoned, cosmic bum-out that features Alexander half-rapping, "Ain't got no money, but the gods make it fuckin' rain" over slo-mo guitars and dubby atmospherics. It's as if for a moment the Lips tried to be Lil Wayne instead of the Troggs, an idea so foolish that it actually suits them perfectly.

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