It was with a mixture of nervous trepidation and mosh pit mastication that we entered the queue at London’s Scala to check out The Black Lips. The garage rockers have a reputation that precedes them when they’re on tour, once having to flee India due to some indecent exposure and on-stage intra-band kissing. Indeed these were once cornerstones of any Black Lips show and while there wasn’t quite this level of debauchery on show, to say they have mellowed or matured would be misleading.
The image that remains in my head is of the toilet paper that was being launched from the stage and then strewn across the venue and band alike. With a hand painted sheet serving as the backdrop, the band launched into an hour or so of up-beat punk rock that was truly sock knocking. The Black Lips delivered their songs in bite-size pieces, most songs clocking in around two minutes, but each was densely packed with energy and the excitable crowd barely got a second of rest throughout.
The highlight from their 2014 album Underneath the Rainbow, ‘Boys In The Wood’ delivered its grungy take on the blues triumphantly and in a way that was in fitting with the sweat and alcohol drenched masses who screamed along in agreement: “When the boys start to drinking/You know it ain't no good/Ain't gonna live for tomorrow/You know you never should”. Long time crowd favourite ‘Bad Kids’ provided the other highpoint of the set, well indicated by the number of people who hit the deck during its opening chords.
The Black Lips manage to deliver punk rock with a smile and a kiss, whilst still living up to the energy levels expected of the genre. It was hard to tell whether it was a threat or a promise when bassist and singer Jared Swilley parted on the words “we’ll be back”.
Words: Matthew Wright