THE BLACK LIPS — ‘Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art’
THE GOOD: Atlanta-based indie rock slackers Black Lips shake up their lineup and return with a sprawling eighth.
THE BAD: Nah!
THE NITTY GRITTY: Vocalist/guitarist Cole Alexander and vocalist/bassist Jared Swilley are the only original members left. And since recent albums helmed by high-profile producers Mark Ronson and Patrick Carney failed to tip the band ever so closer to the mainstream, the guys decided to get back to their ugly roots and churn out the noisy, cluttered and spontaneous “Satan’s Graffiti,” easily the band’s most unpolished effort since 2009’s “200 Million Thousand.”
Sean Lennon handles production duties this time, helping the guys bring together a mix of garage rock, psychedelic freak-outs, a touch of surf, the occasional bout of country blues and even a random Beatles cover (the crew muddying up early track “It Won’t Be Long”). It all sounds like a sloppy gig at a run-down, smoky roadhouse situated on the edge of a Florida swamp circa 1969. Groovy!
BUY IT?: Yeah, baby.
ROYAL BLOOD — ‘How Did We Get So Dark’
THE GOOD: British rockers Royal Blood dodge the sophomore slump.
THE BAD: Don’t expect innovation, but…
THE NITTY GRITTY: …there’s something to be said for “All killer, no filler.” See? Rock clichés can be fun. They also can be loud and satisfying. Royal Blood cranks out a standard guitar-bass-drums mix that’s all big hooks, chunky riffs and plenty of swagger. Of course, they do this WITHOUT an actual guitar; bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr uses different pedals and amplification effects to get a genuine guitar sound from his bass. Along with drummer Ben Thatcher, there are only two guys making all that racket.
You’ve been down this road many times before. And while the dudes may not unleash the Hammer of the Gods like the mighty Zep did all those years ago, they’re certainly more authentic than say … last decade’s Jet. OK, that might not sound like much of a complement, but “Get So Dark” DOES rock. And that’s more than enough.
BUY IT?: Yes.
DAN AUERBACH — ‘Waiting on a Song’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/producer Dan Auerbach (half of the Black Keys) delivers his second proper solo album.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: 2009’s blues-drenched “Keep It Hid” sounded like a direct extension of Auerbach’s work with the Keys (especially the raw swampy stuff put out during those pre-crossover days). “Waiting” is (almost) the exact opposite, with the man embracing his “pop” side. The melodies are direct and irresistible, and the occasional flowing string or bright horn section enhances the rich arrangements.
Auerbach recorded the album at his own Nashville studio and recruited some heavy-hitters to help bring his snappy, polished vision to fruition. Legends such as John Prine, Duane Eddy and Mark Knopfler all lend a guitar or backing vocal to the feel-good proceedings. Dig the breezy, country-flavored title cut; the sweet shuffle carrying “Livin’ in Sin”; the groovy, stomping “Stand By My Girl”; or the blue-eyed soul shading “King of a One Horse Town.” There isn’t a dud in the bunch.
BUY IT?: Definitely.