Review by Monte Holman
Remember that party you went to in east Austin during SXSW that didn’t really get started until two a.m.? The one at that decrepit house on the trashy lot even the vagrants had vacated prior to this lightless gathering of sweaty-ass hip kids doing coke off record dust jackets? And remember that band delivering an hour (or was it three days?) of mellow rock and roll?
Ok, yeah. That was Black Lipstick. Sure it was impossibly stuffy in that house, and there was only one light in the whole place emitting a depressing orange incandescence, but admit it: that trancelike repetitious rock made you feel cool.
With Sincerely, the band’s second LP, Black Lipstick once again litter the air with their dark and dirty brand of rock and roll. Their incarnation of party rock offers more than the typical three chords and poppy bounce. Songs ease into and out of themselves. The band smears warm distortion all over the recording and languidly toys with dissonance, both vocally and instrumentally. Themes of drugs, death, religion, and love lost uphold a consistent tone, a bleary-eyed dedication to the self-destructive rock myth.
The record’s packaging is appropriate, its main colors orange-yellow, deep red, black. We see the sun rising over a tiny Austin skyline after a long night of numbing indulgence. Its rays spell out “Sincerely, Black Lipstick,” a nod to listeners as the band slinks away until darkness returns.
The album begins with a fitting production additive-the fuzzy bass line and drums sound muffled, as though listeners are walking up to a house inside of which a band is starting to play. We open the door a few seconds into “B.O.B. F.O.S.S.E.,” and the sound fills out the speakers. Not so rowdy, mind you, just loud. The tune keeps rolling through repeating guitar licks, though the noise grows. A few lines of male/female call and response give the song a sweet pop kiss before it melts into hotly reverbed and melodic strings.
From there Sincerely unfolds nicely. Songs are smooth but versatile. “No Mercy” slurs out lines like “Some things are worth it, and baby, I think you may be one” in a two minute, nine second punch of pop – instrumentally bright, lyrically shaded with violence. And fuck staying on key. “Grandma Airplane” features droning vocals atop a simple chord progression that eventually spins into several lead lines a la Sonic Youth.
Sincerely champions the rock cause: burn out and repent just before you die. “Viva Max” states in a deadpan drawl, “Over the nation all the haters bow to thee / One foot on the dance floor, the other in the grave,” while “The Bad Catholic” muses, “Mary Mary, thank your SON [it’s capitalized appropriately in the liner notes] for mercy, for salvation. When I’m done having fun I’m sure to need some.” Indeed.
The other moody tracks on the album maintain their rock and roll spirit, conjuring shades of the Velvet Underground and the Stones inoffensively. Black Lipstick aren’t trying to alter the face of independent music here-they’re simply offering a warmer, less robotic version of dance rock.
Listen to this record when the sun goes down. For kicks and for effect, introduce the adolescent black light to your adult self and then go to that party you were thinking of skipping. Black Lipstick remind us that you don’t have to reshape rock history to make a kick ass rock record.