Surly Brewing presents
POPPY JEAN CRAWFORD
It’s country music but not as we know it which begs the question: Have these Bad Kids of 21st Century rock ’n’ roll finally grown up on their ninth studio album? Are they at peace with themselves? Have they made a record their parents could listen to? The Black Lips’ new album Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart (due out January 2020) and new single ‘Gentleman’ both continue to flick the middle finger to one and all.
This ain’t another gaggle of bearded southern sons fleeing their collective suburban upbringings and collegiate music education. There aren’t the usual clichés about drinking, honkytonks, and heartbreak. These are, after all, the same Black Lips who rescued the waning garage punk subgenre by not sounding or dressing their musical predecessors. They also dug contemporary hip-hop and punk and actualized themselves.
Like so many dramatic moments in the Black Lips career, Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart was born out of crisis. The band’s stylistic evolution through decades of prolific touring and recording took them where no garage punk band had gone before – huge venues, network television shows, and major music festivals.
Here Black Lips are at their grimiest, most dangerous and equipped with the best collection of songs since the aughts. Skidding onto the asphalt in a shower of sparks, they roll on with an unapologetic southern-fried twang, pacing the beast, every now and then dropping a psycho howl into the rubber room madness lurking underneath the truckstop fireworks. This ain’t your granny’s country album. And conversely this ain’t your mama’s Black Lips.
“I'm an accidentally good guitarist,” explains Poppy Jean Crawford. “I started playing just because I wanted to have chords to go along with my music.” Listen to a song by the 20-year-old Crawford, however, and it seems like her preternatural musical ability might be more fate than chance. After all, the tracks on her EP JEANJEANIE show off not only her skill on the guitar but a unique ability to create a mood -- swinging from seductive to savage and beyond -- through dark, personal lyrics and a powerful delivery that ranges from ethereal to unrestrained.
“When people listen to my music, they can feel as though they’re in a trance,” Crawford says. “But it’s more than just that. There’s a wall of noise that brings you in, but beyond that there’s beauty alongside the chaos.”
Delicacy presented side by side with disorder is precisely what Crawford does best. Tracks like “Jonsies Gonesies” display a talent for mellow sounds that linger just below haunting lyrics, while “Not Today” and “Better for Me” have a drive that demands attention. When she talks about the music she herself loves -- a diverse selection including P.J. Harvey, Portishead, and Bjork -- it highlights the same idea; Crawford is an artist who’s not only at home among different ideas but also one who can draw clear lines between them for anyone lucky enough to follow along.
Crawford grew up in Los Angeles, soaking in the city’s creative culture. Her mother is a filmmaker and music-video director and her father is an artist, and early on Crawford immersed herself in L.A.’s legendary music scene. “In high school, and I start going to DIY shows, going to The Smell and becoming interested in writing music,” she says. “Soon enough, I dropped out of school. I thought, fuck it, I know what I’m supposed to do.” Indeed, the day she left high school she played her first club gig.
Things only got better from there. Soon enough, Crawford was in the studio with producer Ross Robinson, playing alongside rock titans including Slayer’s Dave Lombardo and Justin Pearson of the Locust. She found her true inspiration not in the studio, but at home and recorded her first EP, The Hallucinatory and Addictive 4 Week Love, in her bedroom. “Doing that sparked my creativity,” she says. “Next, I started learning and doing all by myself.”
She started playing shows regularly, supporting groups like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and earning a rabid fanbase among L.A.’s musical cognoscenti. Buzzbands L.A.’s Kevin Bronson wrote she was “an unexpected highlight… shredding like a 19-year old possessed and tossing shards of dark noise.” JEANJEANIE will only broaden Crawford’s army of admirers. The collection of five songs shows off all of the facets of Crawford’s talent that make her work so fascinating -- and for an artist showing such promise so early in her career, it’s also a strong signifier of things still to come.