It has been three years since Black Lips’ last studio effort Arabia Mountain, which was produced by Mark Ronson. This was a record that smoothed over the band’s garage rock crags and captured their ability to make noise while making it catchy; Black Lips had harnessed the power of 60s rock with a lingering taste of pop. Now back with their seventh album, Underneath the Rainbow, the band have holed themselves up in the studio with The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney in the producer’s spot. If Ronson was able to tap in to their pop side, then perhaps Carney would be able to remind them of their garage rock roots.
The record lurches straight into a mid-tempo southern rock hoedown with ‘Drive by Buddy’, a pleasant song that unfortunately doesn’t quite deliver. Things soon pick up though with ‘Make You Mine’, a lively harmony of rolling bass, occasional claps, and endless slacker rock. This is followed by ‘Funny’, a driven effort with a sci-fi feeling at the chorus. ‘Dorner Party’ sees the band step up the pace with a rockabilly frenzy of mayhem in similar fashion to The Hives’ recent ‘Go Right Ahead’, this blues brass section drives the record.
As we slink in to the second half, it feels as if Carney’s grip of proceedings is tightened, with ‘Boys in the Woods’ feeling like something that wouldn’t be out of place on a Black Keys record. With a horn section and bluesy backing vocals, Black Lips have slowed down and captured a rare moment of maturity. This doesn’t last long though, with the scuzzy crowd-pleaser ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Home’ giving indie kids everywhere a new summer anthem to live by. Final tracks ‘Dandelion Dust’ and ‘Dog Years’ see the band carry on with their brand of garage rock that we’ve become accustom to. ‘Boys in the Woods’ is clearly a sporadic influence from Carney, as the rest of this album is familiar territory for Black Lips.
Whether you find this familiar territory uninspiring or comforting, it shouldn’t put you off from listening to this. This is an album which, although doesn’t push the band too far out of their comfort zone, still sees them recording some stirring Black Lips songs. Ronson may have helped steer the band towards a clearer Black Lips sound, however this record is proof that a producer doesn’t always make the music. Sometimes it’s the band.
Underneath the Rainbow is out now, and available via iTunes.