Moments of Silence

Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah – Black Lips from Let It Bloom

My first real exposure to the Black Lips was when I saw them as an opener for the Ponys in Baltimore.  I’d heard a few songs and liked them, but seeing them live sold me on them.  Lots of energy that was reciprocated by the crowd.  As their set ended, the drummer flung one his drumsticks straight up in the air, smashing a stagelight above and showering some glass over the stage.  Not that crazy by the Lips’ standards, but a rock n’ roll moment for sure.

Seen them twice more since, and both times they’ve played Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah (which apparently is a cover of a 60s French song by Jacques Dutronc).  It’s a crowd favorite, even though it’s a slower-paced song than a lot of their newer stuff.  It is a good song for those up front to catch their breath.  It’s a sloppy song, even more so live.  There’s reverb, echo-y drums, a rattling tambourine, lyrics that sound like they were recorded in a air conditioning duct (it’s hard for me to make out more than every second or third word and there’s a metallic quality to the guys’ voices).

But what really makes this song for me is the pauses.  Starting for the first time around 40 seconds in, the music quiets as an organ enters and as quickly as it came disappears, and a voice (Cole or Jared, not sure which) shushes the band and then speaks a few words in French(why, who knows) and then there is nothing.  Well not quite silence, as there is a quiet hum of guitar feedback.  It only lasts for two seconds, but it builds anticipation of what’s to come.

The guitar riff kicks back in by itself.  Then the snare drops in, quickly followed by a cymbal crash.  Not sure why but it gets the hairs raised on my neck everytime.  They come back and do it again two more times over the course of the song.  I find it interesting how the lack of sound can have such an effect in a musical composition, but I’ve noticed some other songs that use silence to great effect (some of which I plan to write about in the near future).  Not sure the Lips are the kind of band to consciously think about things that way (and since it’s a cover they probably didn’t), but damn it rocks.

Here’s a live version (though in their live versions there’s usually a lot more noise during the quiet/”silence” parts):

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