Black Lips are known for a lot of things: loud punk riffs, ’60s-inspired chord progressions, bratty vocal deliveries, notoriously disastrous live shows. So when we heard the Lips were teaming up with super-slick producer Mark Ronson (Adele, Duran Duran) for their sixth studio venture, we had our doubts. But rather than strip the band of their messy arrangements and mumbled vocals, Ronson has simply tidied them up a little. The result, this month’s Arabia Mountain, is a 16-track romp that’s brimming with old-school surf guitars (“Mad Dog”), sing-songy lyrics (“Go Out and Get It”), and the boppy, Ramones-style punk rock (“Raw Meat”) that has long endeared us to the Lips’ outlandish shtick.
“You’ve got to keep ’em second guessing,” laughed bassist Jared Swilley via phone from the band’s tour van. “We’d never used a producer before, so we tried to go for the top-tier one. It’s like, if you’re gonna do it, why not go for broke?”
Stylistically speaking, Arabia Mountain is not that far a cry from past Black Lips efforts, with all but one of the tracks clocking in at less than three minutes. The difference here lies in the mix, which finds the guitars taking a backseat to the band’s once unintelligible lyrics. “[Ronson] made it sound concise, cohesive, more well managed,” adds Swilley.