I had a moral dilemma when I bought this album—CD or LP? The LP comes with a bonus 7” but I own the rest of The Black Lips’ albums on CD and my OCD likes to have albums by bands on the same format. LP won out because of the extra 7”, but my decision bothers me every day! Some pre-release speculation I read hypothesized that this album would suffer from The Black Lips using a “real” producer, but it doesn’t sound “clean” or “overproduced.” The vocals are less muddy, on most tracks the drums are more prominent, and there’s extra instrumentation (saxophone, saw, I think I hear piano on some songs but there’s none credited), but, overall, it still sounds like The Black Lips. I notice a progression over the course of The Black Lips’ releases: the band seems to focus more on songwriting and less on chaos and noise, and the quality of the songs and hooks consistently improves. After seeing them live recently, a friend pointed out to me that the drummer is key to keeping the band’s performance together—not that he puts the kibosh on the rest of the guys’ shenanigans, but he reins the songs in and keeps them as songs. Most of the tunes on Arabia Mountain run the typical Black Lips gamut of bad kids having fun at all costs (“Don’t You Mess Up My Baby”) to the twenty-something existential desire to enjoy life while you can (“Time,” “New Direction”). “Dumpster Dive” sounds like a Rolling Stones piss-take on a country song with its exaggerated drawl. And I’ll be goddamned if “Bone Marrow” doesn’t sound like Screeching Weasel. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no Black Lips review has ever compared these two bands. The chorus is total Weasel-style and if you replace the saw with Weasel’s pop punk melodic solo, you could fool almost anyone.
–Sal Lucci (Vice)