CD Roundup — Black Lips and My Morning Jacket

Not even studio facelifts and more reverb can save these indie rock sensations.

Raghav Mehta

 

âÄúArabia MountainâÄù

Artist: Black Lips

Label: Vice

If the Black Lips’ last album, âÄú200 Million Thousand,âÄù was a sign of artistic depth, consider their latest LP âÄúArabia MountainâÄù as the repugnant counter to the presumption. Partnering with the always-dapper British sex symbol Mark Ronson, âÄúArabia MountainâÄù sees AtlantaâÄôs snot-nosed flower punks sounding sunnier and sloppier than ever. But whether thatâÄôs a knock against the band is entirely up to you.

Replete with ska-like horns, jangly surf-rock arrangements and cultural references that include Peter Parker and demons, itâÄôs almost as if the Black Lips havenâÄôt grown up at all.

But they would probably refuse to anyway. 

Boasting nearly 20 tracks and clocking in at just over 40 minutes, the record is stripped of all the slow-tempo numbers sprinkled throughout their last record. The group hasnâÄôt lost their penchant for rowdy hook-heavy numbers, but the albumâÄôs glossy veneer occasionally serves as a detriment. While the infectious melodies of songs like âÄúBicentennial ManâÄù and âÄúRaw MeatâÄù keep things interesting, âÄúMad DogâÄù and âÄúNoc-A-HomaâÄù sound more like a drug-induced interpretation of Smash Mouth than fuzzed-out garage rock. âÄúDumpster DiveâÄù reeks of Jagger-Richards influence but is too underdeveloped to be memorable.

âÄúArabia MountainâÄù gives devoted fans plenty to chew on, but the end result is an overblown mess that had success within arms reach. All it needed was some editing.

2/4 stars

 

âÄúCircuitalâÄù

Band: My Morning Jacket

Label: ATO Records

My Morning Jacket has done a damn fine job of establishing themselves as the reigning kings of the summer festival circuit over the last few years. But despite a powerhouse live performance, the band has struggled to capture that creative mystique on record (which is pretty much the exact opposite of rock âÄònâÄô rollâÄôs much more common conundrum). And with the arrival of their sixth proper LP âÄúCircuital,âÄù one question still remains: How can a band with such a brilliant live show manage to be so boring on record?

If thereâÄôs anything vaguely interesting about âÄúCircuital,âÄù itâÄôs the reference point. Coming off the heels of the bandâÄôs genre-hopping psychedelia-meets-soul amalgamation âÄúEvil Urges,âÄù My Morning JacketâÄôs sound seems to have found some middle ground, landing somewhere between the alt-country warmth of âÄúIt Still MovesâÄù and the dreamy atmospherics of âÄúZ.âÄù But what really sets âÄúCircuitalâÄù apart from previous efforts is its utter lack of character. Not only is it rife with all the cornball arena antics and obnoxiously repetitive lyricism that could make their previous albums sound tiresome, but it also lacks any real sense of direction. The psychedelic grandiosity of tracks like âÄúOutta My SystemâÄù or âÄúYou Wanna Freak OutâÄù does little to rouse or stimulate. And like all other efforts, Jim JamesâÄô songwriting shines best when heâÄôs opting for more soul and less snarl (see: “Slow Slow Tune” and “MovinâÄô Away”).

Even in all its overproduced glory, more than half the songs on âÄúCircuitalâÄù never really take off. But so far all these in-studio shortcomings have yet to take away from their stage charisma. LetâÄôs just hope one of these days they consider bringing along some of that energy into the recording booth.

2/4 stars