Black Lips

Black Lips


Rowdy Black Lips enter the stage among chilly gusts and misty fog, perfect set for their opening track ‘Sea Of Blasphemy’. “Sea of vandal/Lost my candle…”. Pure classic garage, with broken bones, glass effects and everything.

This gig at Manchester’s Gorilla is their only show in the North of the UK, so the forecast says it’s gonna be fun. Garage Fun.

The Atlanta, GA outfit is keen on choosing not-the-most-common places to perform in, so we must be proud of choosing the always exotic Manchester.

The four of them (Cole Alexander –guitar, vocals; Jared Swilley –bass, vocals; Jack Hines –guitar; Joe Bradley-drums, vocals) seem to ask for more to the man on the decks. Louder, louder! The mosh-pit is already insane and it’s a sea of teen vandals, a wave out of control – and that’s exactly what is meant to be and the less you can expect from a Labios Negros’ gig.

Second song ‘Modern Art’ is a smashing pop masterpiece that adds more fuel and squeezes our minds with its spooky underlying melody. These cheeky handsome guys with their Zambia scarves, cool caps and rockabilly sleeves claim to be “not musicians but entertainers”, bassist Swilley once said.

‘Family Tree’ arrives just in time to join the fresh air gusts that keep the feverish crowd cool. “It feels so cold/Walk with me…”. A raw and straightforward tune from the Arabia Mountain album (2011), produced by the super cool and stylish Mark Ronson, under the wing of Vice Records, the label that has launched the band’s last four albums.

They play fast and loud, as any punk-rock show should be. They leave their guts and sweat on the stage and that’s already worth your ticket. ‘Justice After All’ chills out the wild kids a bit – just a bit. The song belongs to their latest album, Underneath The Rainbow (2014), and it could be labelled as a trite ‘mature’. This new material could also explain the more relaxed vibes of their live shows. It doesn’t seem to be the “violence” of the early days any more. Neither the “nudity, vomit and other antics” that inevitably caught the media eye. Anyway, Swilley justified the passionate crowd very well in an interview with “Young dudes that aren’t getting sex very often like to smash shit. Even if they are getting sex, they like smashing shit”. Loud and clear.

‘Dirty Hands’ is an obviously Ramonian sweet rotten ballad that drives the crowd mad again with a busy stage diving. Flashing lights. More fog. Hormons. Fluids. Meet the perfect storm. ‘O Katrina’, what an insanely catchy and well-meaning tune! “O Katrina why you gotta be mean/You broke my heart way down in New Orleans.”

Cole Alexander is at times off pitch while performing ‘Drive By Buddy’ but it doesn’t matter, really. Superb final instrumental part. By the way, welcome back to guitarist Jack Hines after being away from the band for a decade. He’s back since now former guitarist Ian St. Pe decided to quit after ten years (2004-2014) of duly service to the band, apparently to go solo –although sharp-as-a-tack Jared Swilley points to the wife-kids-dogs-settled-down-life theory.

After a mind-blowing ‘Drugs’, ‘Boys In The Wood’ is a beautifully performed garage blues. Drummer Joe Bradley is lead singer in ‘Make It’, a reloaded folkie song, and he even makes funny sound effects and weird canned laughter. Galloping and absorbing ‘Not A Problem’ is gorgeously dressed with almost shamanic shouts tailored for any teenager: “They can’t tell me/what I can and cannot do.”

After a ridiculously punk ‘Stranger’, tunes like ‘Stuck In My Mind’ places them somewhere between a polished Ramones and a raw protoCramps. A brief pop truce -‘Smiling’, ‘Raw Meat’, before what happens next with final ‘Bad Kids’: EPIC stage invasion! Nothing to be envious of the largely comented one at London’s Heaven back in 2008.

There’s a soothing encore of two more songs before they disappear. “That’s our mission. We’re into procreation. We make people want to fuck and we make people want to drink. Sometimes we make people want to fight. But that’s human nature and I think we are human nature and we don’t care about anything in between”*. Mission: complete.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!