Good Bad Not Evil

by: Black Lips

Some bands strive to explore new musical territory each time they go into the recording studio, while others are content to follow the same path throughout their career as long as they improve in some way each time out. The Black Lips seem to be following the latter approach, though you'd be forgiven for not noticing the stylistic differences between their fourth studio album, Good Bad Not Evil, and their earlier efforts. The Black Lips continue to split the difference between Back from the Grave-era garage stomp and the darker throb of post-punk noise merchants like the Fall, but as befits the title, Good Bad Not Evil brings a bit more sunshine into the mix, and the deeper undercurrents of this music come more from the performances than the production and recording, which is clear and crisp by this group's murky standards. Jared Swilley's bass is high up in the mix, carrying a good share of the melodies and adding plenty of minor key tension, while guitarists Cole Alexander and Ian St. Pe use the extra room to shore up the high end with plenty of cheap guitar bashing and Joe Bradley's primal drumming holds the whole thing in place. Good Bad Not Evil finds the Black Lips going for a bit more obvious humor on tunes like "Navajo" and the country-accented "How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died" (I said they were funny, not tasteful), and there's a playful tone to "Bad Kids" and "Veni Vidi Vici" that's lighter than you might expect from this band. But longtime fans looking for the Black Lips' patented low-tech rumble will be rewarded with "I Saw a Ghost (Lean)," "Cold Hands," and "Slime and Oxygen," which are just as unwholesome as you could wish for. Good Bad Not Evil isn't a major leap forward for the Black Lips, but it shows their sound is slowly but surely evolving, and they still rock with a nasty enthusiasm that's bold and compelling; this is quality stuff for your next black light party. ~ Mark Deming

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