Black Lips – Apocalypse Love (Fire) Album Review

Black Lips are garage band psychobillies from Atlanta, Georgia and the songs of Apocalypse Love are great mutant dance bop for these threatening and glorious times.

They span the turn of the millennium and hit album number ten 22 years later, sounding energised with their bratty avant-garde demeanour undiminished. Good for us, then.

Cole Alexander vocals and guitar, and Jared Swilley vocals and bass are the heart from the start. The current version is completed by Jeff Clark guitar, Zumi Rosow saxophone and Oakley Munson drums.

They started as loud nihilist punks with a reputation for confronting, obscene and gross behaviour on-stage and remaining in character off-stage. That was a tiresome distraction. There was far more to offer in their art. They are progeny of Alex Chilton and the New York Dolls then, with a Southern mutant rockabilly sentiment.

Title track Apocalypse Love centres the album and they do have the latter Mekon’s sound of country music mutated by radiation burns. Apocalypse coming but I got my girl/ Are you gonna be ready when the shit hits fan? Rosow has described their current music as being a jukebox for these viral dystopian times.

They do western theme music for Rebel Without a Cause, as will be remade by Tarantino in his dreams.

Like Lost Angel and Whips of Holly. They sing of Lost Angeles as a tourist’s wet dream with the singers becoming increasingly anguished. Great retro synth and keyboard textures, which go from Joe Meek to the tones of Alan Ravenstine’s playing in Pere Ubu.

Among the Dunes is a straight homage to the boss Girl Group The Shangri-Las. I remember walking in the sand. Complete with great R’n’B saxophone reminiscent of Daddy G with Gary US Bonds.

Tongue-Tied is Pogue’s Celtic folk punk. They add the celestial tones of a theremin as they are waiting for the end of the world, my friend. Mexican trumpets make it a joyous square dance.

Love Has Won is more Mekon-style cowpunk. The times are toxic with red terror running out in the street. Along the way they name-check ? and the Mysterians 96 Tears. Sixties Garage band royalty.

Operation Angels is close to an old Brill Building classic. Great pop hooks as they ring the bells of Phil Spector.

The album opens with waves of dissonance from No Rave. Guitar squalls and saxophone honks. Urban industrial noise looking back to their younger days.

They close with The Concubine. A Lou Reed voice in his low-key beat poet style. It has the cool vest of Sweet Jane to wear, and a similar short story. How gracious you were/ Is how gracious I’ll be.

Black Lips take us into a cool dance party and lift our spirits. It’s just the Apocalypse, Love.

Rev Orange Peel