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  The Four Kingdoms Of Black Lipstick  
  Black Lipstick  
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Most music geeks have an internal list of exciting records labels. You know what I mean, the entire roster is solid and every release is greeted with some anticipation. For me, those labels include one usual suspect (Merge) as well as several local (or semi-local) ones (2Sheds, Moodswing, and Backburner). And then there's one other label that always impresses me, Austin Texas's Peek-a-boo Records. The home of some great bands (including The Kiss Offs, FiveHead, and The Wontons), their releases are always entertaining and interesting. So even when I haven't heard of the bands behind their latest releases, I try to go out of my way to pick up the CDs.

For this reason alone, I went out and bought the debut EP by Black Lipstick. I hadn't heard any of the music; I've never seen them live. I knew nothing about them. But they were on Peek-a-boo, and that's good enough for me. Of course I shouldn't have worried. As it turns out, Black Lipstick are a four piece Austin band with the two singer/guitarists from The Kiss Offs (Travis Higdon and Phillip Niemeyer) joined vocally by drummer Elizabeth Nottingham. The bassist has apparently changed between the May 2001 recording and their current live incarnation.

From the first notes of Four Kingdoms of Black Lipstick, I was impressed. The first song, White Jazz, borrows a guitar riff from the Velvet Underground's Waiting For the Man, but adds a touch of mellow piano and fuzzed out distortion to the mix. At the same time, the vocal line is more melodic and accessible than most of Lou Reed's early music. Similarly, the next song, Cat Piss Blues, recalls the rough petulance of Beggar's Banquet-era Rolling Stones, although the lyrical references place the music firmly in more recent times.

However, it's on the third song that Black Lipstick as a band really hit their stride. W.W.D.Y.D still has the underlying tone of the 60's garage greats, only this time, the piano line is stronger and the drumming carries the insistently mid-ranged pace. The guitars fade to the background while the male/female vocal interplay comes to the front, propelling the lyrical narrative of romantic confusion. It ends in a too quick 3 minutes, leaving me longing for more.

The next song begins with a return to the homage of the first two songs. Only this time, the bass propels the song into an occasional guitar breakdown that I'm sure reminds some people of Television, or perhaps The Modern Lovers. Likewise, the final and fifth song of the EP, Our Gilded Thrones, apparently continues in the same vein with the jangly guitars and half shouted vocals. But just when you think you've got a handle on everything, the music fades towards the end of the song and the band slows down the original melody into a beautiful shoegazer instrumental. It's a glorious ending that demonstrates that this band is more than just some garage rock revival phenomenon. And I'm left to conclude that Peek-a-Boo Records has done it again, releasing another strong record from another strong band.

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