QUICK REVIEW: There’s nothing new on this album, but if you’re a fan of guitars, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, then you’ll like 200 Million Thousand. Even though Black Lips aren’t reinventing the wheel, there’s real grit and attitude on this album, with just enough “I don’t give a fuck.” Definitely worth a listen or two, or at least checking out the mp3s at the end of this post.
When I’m writing record reviews, I try really, really hard not to read other reviews of the album first. I’ll sometimes check the Pitchfork rating, if that. I find that when I read other reviews first, I end up responding to them rather than rating the album. Unfortunately, I sort of got tricked into reading one for the Black Lips’ latest album, 200 Million Thousand. And now I feel the need to respond to it. I won’t get specific about which review it was, but the gist of it was basically that the Black Lips are known for their over-the-top, out-of-this-world, don’t-let-the-kids-get-corrupted-by-this-newfangled-rock-music live shows. (It’s true. I’ve heard that when they used to play shows in Atlanta, where they’re from, they would sometimes piss in each other’s mouths and then make out. Most recently, they were nearly arrested in India for “homosexual acts” and had to flee the country. This may or may not have been a publicity stunt.) The reviewer then went on to say that they thought, essentially, this album was kind of wimpy. That they’re supposed to be this crazy punk band, but all the songs on here are relatively tame, and thus disappointing.
That reviewer is an idiot. An absolute idiot. This album is really, really good. I won’t say great, because not every song is very exciting or different. There is little that’s innovative about this album (it sounds like it could be straight from 1976, with a little 60s rock thrown in for good measure). There isn’t too much straight up rocking out, either. There’s a lot of controlled, fuzzy guitars and slurred vocals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a wimpy album. Has this reviewer ever heard the Modern Lovers? Johnny Thunders? Richard Hell? A lot of their songs were relatively calm in respect to their live personas. “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory?” Anyone? It’s that perfect “I don’t really give a fuck” attitude that makes them intense. The fact that this reviewer couldn’t recognize that really annoyed me.
Especially because there are some truly, truly fantastic songs on this album. As I was saying before, it’s not a great album, but I love it because some of the songwriting on 200 Million Thousand is just SO good. A brief sidetrack- what a great name for an album! It’s strong, commanding, and compact, just like the music it contains. Anyways, the three best tracks on the album, to me, are “Starting Over,” “BBBJOT,” and “Short Fuse.” “Starting Over” is a laid-black slow-burner that unexpectedly gets in your head. “Short Fuse” (the sweet music video is above) is an energetic upstart of a song that continually comes back to its anthemic, catchy chorus in a burst of rebellious energy. It really makes me feel like protesting something for no reason.
My absolute favorite track on the album, however, is “BBBJOT.” BBBJOT stands for big black baby Jesus of today. They’re talking about Jack Johnson, as they slur in the beginning of the song, “You can’t be the Jack Johnson of today.” And no, they’re not talking about the Jack Johnson who disturbingly headlined all of the music festivals last summer. In case you’re not a nerdy history buff, Jack Johnson was a black boxer in the early 20th century. In a landmark fight against the white James Jeffries, he became the best boxer in the world, upsetting white folks all over. Jeffires initiated the fight “for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” Okay. So what we have here is a band full of white boys from Atlanta writing songs about Jack Johnson, one of the most important figures in black history, calling him the big black baby Jesus of today. The song is rife with intense stereotypical tribal-sounding drumming as it strongly fights its way through its own two minute and fifty six second duration. Whether or not you think that’s okay, you DEFINITELY can’t call that wimpy. The song is bleeding to death with attitude, and I love it. If you have any inclination towards this kind of music, you will definitely like this album.