Man, I hate to say it, but I think I love this record. You’re undoubtedly asking yourself one of two questions right now: Why do I hate to say it? Or why do I love it? The answer to both is the same: Because the Black Lips come pre-hyped and exposed for all the world to see and hear, yet they have defied the odds and put out a record unlike anything they have done to date. Still, 200 Million Thousand is a record that is undeniably all the Black Lips.
As the number of imitators grow, and In The Red starts to become relevant on a level beyond the Goner record shop, the Black Lips still stay ahead of the pack just enough to wave a collective finger at those trying to catch up. It’s as if they’re saying to the music world, “yeah, you’re doing what we did on our last record, here’s what you’ll be doing on your next one.”
Anyone who’s seen the Black Lips live will know they are as much a spectacle as they are a band, and they’re a garage punk outfit who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Which makes it that much more interesting — and unexpected — that they would come armed with a mid-tempo, near-distortion-less, almost psychedelic collection of songs. This is less Reigning Sound or LiveFastDie, and more 13th Floor Elevators, maybe even a little Kinks or Monks for good measure. The result is a dizzying display of inconsistencies that keep you guessing from track to track, but makes you wanting to hear where the next turn will take you.
In fact, the most traditional and boring song on the track is probably the lead single, “Short Fuse”. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just the expected, more traditional garage leaning number — and one of the few on 200 Million Thousand. Conversely, the lazy drawl of “Old Man” has me entrenched in the slow burn of the South that they have always lived in, but haven’t displayed on record until now. Same could be said about “Elijah” or the “The Drop I Hold” — which sees Cole Alexander essentially talking over a haze-filled backdrop — it could easily be dismissed as a lackadaisical approach to songwriting, but there are few bands who could pull this off so earnestly and carefree that the result can only be reviewed with the utmost respect. I know that there is a cynicism in everything they do, and I can almost see them winking to each other as they read a review like this, but it is within that “we don’t give a fuck” attitude that the greatest musicians live.
Like a modern day troubadour of Johnny Cash‘s, for every bit of lucid endeavor they describe on “Drugs”, there is an honest feeling of remorse and pain that strains through the otherwise upbeat and jangly number. Then maybe even justified or further explained in “Starting Over”, which sounds like a happy, San Fran 60s pop band giving us the pledge of new beginnings, but almost ironically, it’s more of a dismissal of the current. In order to start over, you need to discard the past, and maybe this signifies a new start for the Lips. Or maybe they’re just doing whatever the fuck they want.
Some will dismiss this album as an uncohesive mess of Southern fried scum rock, and for that, I applaud the Black Lips. 200 Million Thousand might not be the album you grab to hear your favorite hits, but from the title down to the application, it will live in infamy as the pinnacle of a band and their craft and how little regard they have for what you and I think.