Black Lips, Cutting Loose and Reaching Back at Black Cat

Atlanta's Black Lips took the crowd back to garage rock's yesteryear.
Atlanta's Black Lips took the crowd back to garage rock's yesteryear. (Bomp Records)
Saturday, December 30, 2006

It was like "Nuggets" come to life Thursday night when Atlanta quartet Black Lips managed to condense everything great about the seminal box set of '60s garage rock classics into a rowdy 40-minute set at the Black Cat's sold-out Backstage.

The band showed impressive range, which usually isn't a compliment associated with garage bands. Instead of bashing out the same three-chord rocker a dozen times, Black Lips mixed it up plenty, with the swampy, bluesy shuffle of "Boomerang," psych rave-up of "Freak Out" and the '50s slow-dance-inspired "Dirty Hands," complete with a spoken-word bridge about smoking dope and getting tattoos. There were also nods to the British invasion sound of the Troggs and the surf-garage blend of the Atlantics.

Guitarist Cole Alexander, bassist Jared Swilley and drummer Joe Bradley all took turns on vocals, often accompanying each other to form fine harmonies. The songs were delivered in a playfully sloppy manner, which is to be expected from a band whose albums are even more lo-fi than the obscure bands of yesteryear they emulate.

About the only bad thing you could say about the band's set was its choice of visuals, which included one of the most rudimentary psychedelic backdrops ever, a brief appearance by an especially annoying strobe light and extensive use of a middle school math teacher's best friend, the overhead projector. The band's antics were plenty entertaining enough, as Bradley bashed away relentlessly at his very basic drum kit and Alexander pulled off rock star moves such as playing a guitar solo with his teeth.

-- David Malitz

© 2006 The Washington Post Company