The Babies – The Babies
On their self titled debut The Babies have come out with a burst of instinctive, dilapidated Brooklyn-bred blues and farm-fresh pop punk. A lot of the songs are a fine and natural combination of both. It wanders later on into melodramatic ’60s psych-pop territory and down several other over-grown garden paths.
It’s a pretty sweet album in its own right, made more so by the fact that it is not exactly what I expected from this quartet started by Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone and Woods bassist Kevin Morby. I expected something fun and colorful, which the album is, but I also expected them to pick a single musical point of reference and give it a thorough, noise-soaked working over. This debut is more interesting and less easily digestible than that.
There’s also really more craft in the album than there seems to be at first, the sprawl notwithstanding. The songs all feature some fuzzy, noisy component but it seems unusually strategic. There are plenty of clearings where the fog recedes and the vocals are foregrounded. Noise becomes more of tool here than a given. You could compare it to those rare occasions when Auto-Tune is deployed with discretion and artistry.
Listening carefully, it sounds like they’ve gone a-crate digging too. At least, there is a sense that they’ve hit on some new springs of inspiration. Whether those are obscure slabs of mid-century pop weirdness or more inborn in nature is actually hard to say, but they’ve definitely been putting in the work even if they’ve done a good job of making it sound like goofing off while the tape is rolling.
The album is enjoyable enough to make one look forward to at least a sophomore effort, and there’s evidence that this is not just a rambling one-off project. My reason for hope is in the diversity of sound on the album. It seems like this group played a lot of songs together and couldn’t quite settle on just one single musical statement. This could be considered a flaw, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that they have ideas to spare and that there will be more of this action in the future.
Finally, in spite of its meandering feel, it’s really a short, cool trip and one fans of the members’ previous work are likely to want to repeat – or, rather, to play on repeat. Check it out, and consider making it your official favorite Vivian Girls/Woods side project.