The Black Lips are really ex-Renegades but more than a simple name change was involved. In '00, Cole Alexander and Jared Swilley left the Renegades. They were joined by Ben Eberbaugh, of the Reruns. A short time later, Joe Bradley completed the initial line-up.
Black Lips issued a self-released EP in '02. As they were about to go on tour, Eberbaugh was tragically killed when a drunk driver slammed into his car. Black Lips decided to carry on with guitarist Jack Hines, a band friend. With him, Black Lips issued their full-length debut, "We Did Not Know The Forest Spirit Made The Flowers Grow." But Hines didn't stick around long. In '04, he was replaced by Ian Saint Pe, also formerly of The Renegades.
'07 was a pivotal year for Black Lips. An appearance at Austin's South By Southwest was followed by "Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo." It was presented as a live album recorded at a Tijuana bar - no doubt to leverage the band's reputation for unbridled and often over-the-top stage antics. Actually, the set may have been enhanced, if not entirely recorded, in a studio. Next, Black Lips issued a legit studio effort, "Good Bad Not Evil." Finally, they made their national TV debut on Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
A film project entitled Let It Be, where the band was to play an '80s group called The Renegades, fell through as did Tesco's use of "Veni Vidi Vici" in a commercial. The U.K. grocery chain had "problems" with the lyrics. However, the same song was heard in the U.S. during ABC's Dirty Sexy Money.
Rock bands and trouble are almost synonymous but sometimes they just go looking for it. Black Lips were touring India, a fairly conservative country, when a show in Chennai caused a stir. According to an interview with Pitchfork media, "they [Ian and Cole] kissed, some wieners got pulled out..." Worried they may be arrested for "homosexual acts," the band fled the city, and shortly, the country. Landing in Berlin, and perhaps to make amends, Black Lips recorded gospel-influenced songs with King Khan & BBQ under the name The Almighty Defenders.
Returning to the U.S. the Black Lips produced their fifth studio album, "200 Million Thousand," another 'flower Punk" outing, at New Street Studio, a former art gallery in Decatur GA. A U.S. and European tour followed - India was left off the itinerary.
The band also had featured role in the documentary We Fun: Atlanta, GA Inside Out which made its debut at the '09 Atlanta Film Festival.
While working in New York City with producer Mark Ronson on their '11 set, "Arabia Mountain," Alexander told the New Musical Express (NME) that hopefully this "will be our most f*cked-up but successful album." Recording was completed in Atlanta and two tracks, "Bicentennial Man" and "Go Out And Get It," were produced by Lockett Pundt.
"Arabia Mountain's" first single, "Modern Art," was reportedly about what Cole experienced going to art museums after taking the anesthetic ketamine. If that's not true, it should be.
The Black Lips returned in '14 with the twelve track "Underneath The Rainbow."
Full-Length Studio Albums:
2003 Black Lips!
2004 We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow
2005 Let It Bloom
2007 Good Bad Not Evil
2009 200 Million Thousand
2011 Arabia Mountain
2014 Underneath The Rainbow
2005 Live @ WFMU
2007 Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo
Black Lips blend Punk and mid-60s, pre-psychedelic Rock (The Seeds, Count Five, Love, etc.) - which is why their music gets termed "flower Punk." And even though Psychedelic Garage Rock quickly became passe it would have been the perfect place for Black Lips.
"Underneath The Rainbow" has "Boys In The Woods," a jangling dirty Blues, "New Direction," a stab at Garage Dance Rock and "Veni, Vidi, Vici," which would sit comfortably among the Yardbirds' late '60s 'experimental' works. It may all sound way retro but remember, if you have never heard it before, Black Lips are new and original. And even if you have, they're still pretty cool.
"Arabia Mountain" has oddball effects - spacey sounds, a wayward sax and fuzz guitar - just for a change of pace but they don't get in the way. The Black Lips are most impressive on "Dumpster Dive" which channels the mid-60's Stones at their most messed up.
"200 Million Thousand" sounds like a collection of demos - in a good way. There's a captivating looseness and reckless energy that is usually distilled out of more polished recordings. "Take My Heart" is an engaging track complete with energetic wails and a hot guitar. "Trapped In The Basement" has spooky sounds and a hypnotically tepid beat. "Big Black Baby Jesus" sounds like something the Stones would have undertaken in their "Out Of Our Heads" period - of course, if they had, it would have bought the band endless grief (in addition to the drug busts) because back then nobody could possibly get passed the title. In a totally different direction, the ballad "I'll Be With You" has the makings of a prom classic.
While the lack of polish is one of the appealing aspects of "200 Million Thousand," that's not to say Black Lips couldn't use a bit more. "Good Bad Not Evil" has it. "O Katrina" is not only the best song on the album, it's the best song Black Lips have recorded. "Lock And Key" takes a far-out trip into hippie Rock.
"Let It Bloom" opens with a jangling Punk romp, "Sea Of Blasphemy." "Can't Dance," "Gung Ho" and "Feelin' Gay" just kick it out. No fuss, no worries.