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What do you do when you're sixteen and in deep shit? You’re looking out at the world from the strip-mall and the detention hall, from the basement and the cul-de-sac and it just looks like there is a wall around you. Everybody tells you and your friends that you’re going nowhere, that your lives are already ruined. What the fuck do you do?
You hang around and smash stuff and get high and try to be a bad-ass, that’s what you do. You steal and drink and smash up the car your mom gave you and pull your pee-pee out in public. You work at sandwich shops and fast-food joints and try to screw private school girls because they think your tough and the girls at your school think your gay because you pretended to give your friend a blowjob at the junior prom. You fuck it all up as ugly and as dirty as you can because, why the fuck not?
Your parents and teachers and sandwich-shop supervisors look at you and think, “What happened to the kid? He has all the advantages in the world and he has chucked it all in the shitter. Doesn’t he believe in the inherent goodness of our enlightened society? Doesn’t he believe in any thing at all?”
It is this question, the question of belief, nay, the question of faith, that is the crux of the matter. It is this question that was asked of the Black Lips. And the Black Lips have answered it. They have answered it in their songs and in their actions. They have answered it for every shit-assed, burned-out brat that staggers out of the suburbs. They have answered it resoundingly and continue to answer it.
“Where is their answer?” you may ask. Do those psychedelic swamp guitar drones bear witness to a faith of some kind? Does the quasi-violent sexual comedy of their stage show underscore a deeply held belief system? Does their commingling of Deep South, big-tent revival rhetoric with hoary-throated, drug-haze mumble truly mean anything, to them or to anyone else?
You bet your ass it means something to them. How would they have persevered through all the drudgery and threats of doom if it didn’t mean a goddamn thing to them? Their adversaries have been formidable and numerous, and they have bested them all. Why, even in their earliest days, death itself reared its ugly head to attempt to halt their progress, and was dismissed directly. How, without faith, could the Black Lips have carried their message forth into the four corners of the earth?
And so, on the eve of the release of their fifth album, the faith abides stronger than ever. A host of influences have passed through their gullet and provided the sustenance to keep their faith alive. The dusts of a southern back road and the big-city gutter puke crackle in the grooves of this record as it did in the previous ones. The shouts and moans and static continue to bear witness
“But faith in what?” the fathers, mayors and captains of industry might continue to ask. Well, if you’ve never been one of those shit-assed brats looking out into a world you were already excluded from, a world that sickened you, but for which there was no alternative, then you may not understand. But, through the eyes of one whom, like them, was a go-nowhere from the get-go, the Black Lips represent the faith that it takes to reject that world of sterile, futile, servile, silliness and forge your own world based on bravery and bad-ass-ness. They have carried to fruition the plan that has been hatched, and will continue to be hatched in the minds of dizzy, dumb and desperate youth the world over. Now they carry their message of faith to the world. FEAR NOT! BE BRAVE AND TAKE HEART! THE WORLD IS YOURS IF YOU ACCEPT THE POWER OF FAITH!!!
(As I record these words a purple and orange fog engulfs the bay below me. The gin gimlets glide down my throat and I ponder the freedom that I, myself, have wrenched from the “enlightened society’ that once oppressed me. It is good and right that we should live free. I know this, the Black Lips know this, and the gulls in the bay below know this. Take this knowledge and go in faith.)
Baby Gusty Accra, Ghana