Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art marks a new direction for the Black Lips. The flower punk group has been reduced to the core duo of Cole Alexander and Jared Swilley, working alongside producer Sean Lennon. The group has kept the gritty, edgy garage roots that were a staple from the beginning, and added levity with Zumi Rosow on saxophone, and Oakley Munson on drums.
For this reason, the first half of the album is the Black Lips trying to create a new musical identity with the new contributors. Third track “Can’t Hold On” spotlights Munson’s percussion while guitars and saxophone slowly build but stay in line toward the end, never getting chaotic.
Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art is broken up into three chapters. The album is front-loaded with six songs that are upbeat and tied to the band’s garage roots. The middle chapter halts the pace and makes a quick pit stop with “Wayne,” a slow march down memory lane about a person betraying his friends in order to obtain fame. Wayne could be a character to represent Joe Bradley, a founding, departed member of the Black Lip. Sings Alexander: “Is it true, was it them or you?/ Were you setup by the clan?/ Oh Wayne, you got no cards, about the CIA/ Oh Wayne, you never were the same.”
The Black Lips wanted to give the album the feel of a live show, with interludes transitioning one track to the next. Lead single “Squatting in Heaven” is an uptempo rock anthem that uses the saxophone as a blaring horn over a garage riff oozing with bass. Rather than a solid ending, it bleeds into the intrude, which sets up “Rebel Institution,” a funky country-style song.
The album features contributions from Yoko Ono and Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski. The standout song happens to be a cover of the Beatles’ “It Won’t Be Long.” The Black Lips turn the dial up on the bass and drums to create a punchy energy that suits the band strengths.
On album closer“Loser’s Lament,” the group scales back that punch and transitions to an acoustic arrangement. It’s a strong reflection of the Black Keys’ desire to not be defined by any one sound. Alexander sings about the sacrifices required for a boy to become a man. “He gave up everything to hear freedom ring/ In hopes for better things for tomorrow,” Alexander sings.
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