3/20/08 The Black Lips @ Mercy Lounge, Nashville, Tenn.

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

At Nashville’s Mercy Lounge, the Black Lips blended their penchant for 13th floor Elevators, the Ventures and Halloween sounds with reckless amusement, and in turn generated some bona fide Thursday night revelry.At Nashville’s Mercy Lounge, the Black Lips blended their penchant for 13th floor Elevators, the Ventures and Halloween sounds with reckless amusement, and in turn generated some bona fide Thursday night revelry.

The band, with a vaguely Sun Records-era sound, aroused a subdued sock-hop starting in the venue’s middle, which funneled and accelerated to front row tantrums. Seeing this band can make one feel like a rock star and not want to be in the band at the same time, as their inebriated self-degradation might cause a lemming to set itself on fire. Like Brian Jonestown Massacre in the film DiG!, the outlandish stage antics of the Black Lips are ripe for documentary.

A four-piece, the Black Lips situated their rhythm guitarist stage-right, who, in perhaps one of the most severe demonstrations of irony by an indie-rocker, sported a gold grill and chain, similar to fellow Georgian, Bubba Sparxxx, but thinner. The lead guitarist embodied 80’s clichés, donning a funky blonde wig, white-wash denim jacket and anachronistically spat loogies six feet skyward only to have them get colder and fall back into his mouth again. The Lips’ drummer rolled his bowl cut head of hair around as if his neck muscles had been attacked by prescription relaxants, and last, lead singer/bassist and least gimmicky (except for the very smart moustache) was Jared Swilley who led the rag-tag crew through what could be called hipster vaudeville.

“Italian Sexual Frustration” validates any description of the band as “garage-punk” yet is adorned with two twangy slide riffs which keep one’s interest. Their most cohesive song to date, “Cold Hands,” got played but didn’t really stand out however B-side “Buried Alive,” where the band embraces the haunting, 60’s pop tendencies of the Misfits, exemplified their vintage lo-fi sound acutely. Likewise, “O Katrina,” also pleased the crowd, perhaps because the simple riff and chorus allowed the band to pound their instruments drunkenly.

Slower, more psychedelic numbers were accompanied by no lights except for a dim, reddish lava lamp projected from the back sound booth onto the audience and band, allowing for some far-out and anonymous interpretive-dance.

The job of The Black Lips as rock band presents hazards that not everyone should endure repeatedly, seriously an occupation to applaud rather than envy.

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