Sincerely, Black Lipstick

Seven Shiners deep and they still sound sweet. Black Lipstick run the scene down here in Theoretical Texas. Of course with all the alcohol I guess my judgement’s somewhat stunted, but this band ruled with as much cool on back before I started steeping in this bar. Well, it’s really not a bar so much as just my darkened den, but for tonight Black Lipstick’s taken me to another place entirely with Sincerely, Black Lipstick.

Those in the know should know that this one’s just a bit more dour and weary than previous efforts. It’s not all about getting loaded and laid this time around; there’s a lot of loss and longing here too. Still, the whole of it rings true enough that it could be no one else but Black Lipstick.

For those unfamiliar the best introduction to the band is to address their liberal appropriation of underground icons. The Velvets are the most obvious inspiration, but there are also shades of Sonic Youth tuned in through Television’s contrast knob. Then there’s that yawning Malkmus yelp that makes me cry, “My, my slacker rock will never die!” Yet for as readily accessible and excessively depleted as these influences may be, Black Lipstick still stand apart from the swelling ranks of those whose songs summon similar stalwarts.

The differentiation comes in Black Lipstick’s uncanny knack for rendering every intended nuance sounding shrugged off or effortless. This comes partly from their skill and musicianship but mostly from something more intangible than that. They may invoke the sound of so many other bands, but nobody embodies a sense of feel like Black Lipstick. They are all-at-once friendly, familiar, and casually cathartic. One spin of the record is like a night out with friends spent bitching about what it is that ails you as you ale and lager your way back down into complacent contentment. In four bars and two lines or less they can sit you right down in a roadhouse knocking back beers with the band like you’d been best friends forever.

Both contributing to and benefiting from this friendly feel is the band’s overtly conversational lyrics. With their deadpan delivery and ironic sensibility all four singers can serve up otherwise wince-worthy words with enough non-committal conviction to make it work. Within the confines of some rap-rock mutation lines like “over the nation, all the haters bow to thee” would prove unbearable but here they sound right at home and almost charming. Such a predilection for hackneyed street jargon should come as no surprise from a band that opened their first release with the verse “I don’t care about shit, except for getting off and getting lit.” What’s surprising is that those lines evoke not a scowl but a smile and that Black Lipstick is still working that same mojo on into today.

Their secret to this and almost every other charm they offer is the lone girl of the group, Elizabeth Nottingham. Her harmonies and boy/girl barbs and trade-offs temper lead member Phillip Niemeyer’s fits of bravado and revisit the heights of his prior band, the late, great Kiss Offs. Nottingham’s drumming cannot be overlooked either. Her increasingly inventive style breaks her free of the Moe Tucker typecast she was tied down to and enables her to move her instrument from the backbeat to the forefront on songs like “Grandma Airplane” and “…” If there’s any fault at all to be found in this release it’s that their simply isn’t enough of Elizabeth.

Still, what lack may be left in her absence is sufficiently filled with the talents of the remaining three singers and songsmiths. Niemeyer turns over the controls to right hand man Travis Higdon more often than ever and even bassist Steve Garcia steps up to the mic on a couple tracks. All this interplay only accentuates the affability that proves to be their defining strength.
Even if not a great band, their amicable approximation of greatness makes Black Lipstick well worth a listen and even more deserving of a few rounds in their honor. So, here’s to you, Black Lipstick. And here’s to Shiner number eight.

Listen to killer opening track "B.O.B. F.O.S.S.E." courtesy of Peek-A-Boo Records

Buy Sincerely, Black Lipstick now from Peek-A-Boo

Explore other awesome artists on Peek-A-Boo like Palaxy Tracks and The Kiss Offs