200 Million Thousand Can’t Be Wrong

Black Lips stop touring long enough to make new record

Music Features The Black Lips
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where the Black Lips have set up a portable analog studio to record their sixth album, 200 Million Thousand, looks and feels exactly like the record sounds—sloppy, spacious and hot. Empty beer cans and pizza boxes are piled in the building’s sun-drenched foyer, where lead singer Cole Alexander is laying down vocals for “Let it Grow,” the closest thing on the new record to the band’s self-described flower-punk roots.

200 Million Thousand settle in to watch the Black Lips work. “I mean, we’ve had other records, and they’re all great, but that last one kind of put us on the map.”
And all over the map, too. In 2006, the Lips signed to Vice Records and then toured three continents to support their 2007 breakout album Good Bad Not Evil and the live Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo. Their shows became legendary (largely based on dares, stomach incontinence and tomfoolery), many ending with the band being kicked out of whatever club was hosting them.
To the Black Lips, quality control means making sure the songs sound trashy enough to match their aesthetic—think Nuggets-era Texas psychedelia with a Wu-Tang twist. Engineer Mike Wright ducks in to ask if Alexander needs some water. “No,” he says. “I need another cigarette.”
The album is shaping up to be an era-defying mix of garage-punk sing-alongs and sock-hop bouncers. Early mixes sound great on playback, but the only real way to test them is to play them live.
Body Combat
The Black Lips book an off night at Atlanta indie-rock haven The Earl, billing themselves as The Renegades—a name they haven’t used since they first started playing together as young teens.
Their first set includes the original Renegades lineup playing songs they haven’t played together in 10 years. Drummer Joe Bradley seizes the opportunity to chide the loyalists in the audience who have been with the band almost as long. “Last time we played these songs, you were all a bunch of cowards,” he says. “Not much has changed.”
record, the Black Lips' songs will become more polished and their live show more tame. From sitting in on the sessions, I can vouch that this hasn’t happened. The other fear—attendant to any Black Lips show—is that the band will do something so outrageous the whole place will be engulfed in flames.
The show’s second set is all Black Lips material. The band members return to the stage with black circles drawn around their mouths to illustrate the point. As they launch into “Take My Heart,” Alexander hocks a loogie in the air and catches it in his mouth, without missing a chord on the guitar he's furiously strumming.
A girl standing next to me politely asks if I’d like to throw her beer at the band. I oblige, smiling as the cup leaves my hand.

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