Concert review: Black Lips, Kings Arms

By Dan Trevarthen

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'This room already reeks of sweat (and there's word a guitarist has spewed on stage).' Photo / Dallas Pickering
'This room already reeks of sweat (and there's word a guitarist has spewed on stage).' Photo / Dallas Pickering

It says something for Black Lips that I missed the first few songs and this room already reeks of sweat (and there's word that a guitarist has spewed on stage). But that's the modus operandi - smelly rock'n'roll that really doesn't waste a lot of time. Drink your beer fast and play the song faster. In one sense that's great, you get these really economical songs - straight to the point and beautifully simple. But as the set progresses, a few more diversions would probably do them well. Admittedly the differentiation between songs is a lot more notable on record, but here it kind of bleeds into one big distorted burst of adrenalin. Still, there's a little mutated doo-wop influence hiding on a few, and a bouncy Supremes-like bassline that shows up later is a welcome diversion.

They tend to embrace the skeletons of older songs - think of it as American Graffiti scrawled on junk shop guitars and fuzz pedals with glow in the dark paint. Maybe throw in a bit of The Ramones for something like Raw Meat, which has the audience going crazy. It's kind of interesting to imagine what these songs would sound like slowed down 20 per cent, not that I'm recommending doing it.

Something like 'Cold Hands' would probably sound vaguely country, but here it comes across like a swampy take on the shouty blues The Whipping Cats used to ply around Auckland dives. The whooping, hollering hoedown of O Katrina! is a highlight, and the stupendously bratty New Direction was born to make people dance - it has vocalist/bassist Jared Swilley slurring out these joyfully simple lines that come back to a hook that's repeated at the end of every phrase. The words he's singing each time are "I've been looking in a new direction", which isn't exactly the mantra of the night, but that comes soon.

On a night filled with exuberance and a particularly youthful take on rock'n'roll, the leader of these grown men opens the song 'Bad Kids' with some teenage rebellion: "This one's about how our parents are thousands of miles away and they can't do shit", and the sweat keeps on dripping.

Who: Black Lips
Where: Kings Arms, Auckland
When: Tuesday 28 February

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