Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Album Review: Stolen Babies - Naught
If I had to name one gaping blind spot, it would be the one where female vocalists collect. My ballooning collection carries very little of them, so I knew immediately I’d be coming at Stolen Babies from a weakened position. I do, however, have some experience of avant-garde bands and know not to instantly view them as pretentious. If you find yourselves holding bands like this at arms length you are clearly missing the point of them. They have this tendency to spring out and surprise you when you least expect it, so you do have to watch them like a hawk. Of course, quite possibly, they provide your best opportunity to stop living in a box and learn something about music solely designed to make you think outside of it.
Stolen Babies’ new album, Naught, is unsurprisingly hard to pin down. It’s like trying to grab a loose hamster. Just when you think you’ve got hold of the bugger, he gives your hand a nip and dives under the sofa again. These Californian kooks are clearly happy making their music as unpredictable and as fresh-sounding as they possibly can. Consequently, to try and give you a clue to their sound, I’m forced to try throwing a few uber-vague band names at you to see if one sticks.
Taking a pinch of Dog Fashion Disco, not to mention that band’s love-child Polkadot Cadaver, a dose of the Diablo Swing Orchestra and a brief scattering of cabaret acts like Katzenjammer Kabarett and The Tiger Lillies, Stolen Babies are able to conjure up a twisted, scattergun approach to album construction. Their music flicks from conjuring snatches of 80s and 90s UK pop for tracks like “Birthday Song” (reminiscent of Altered Images’ “Happy Birthday”) and “Second Sleep” (Portishead meets Echobelly) to tossing out Japanese Voyeurs-esque grunge-cum-punk for “Don’t Know”, “Splatter”, “Dried Moat” and “Prankster”.
Lead singer Dominique Lenore Persi throws in a phlegm-affected snarl (a la Rolo Tomassi’s Eva Spence) to provide the charge for the bruising dips that lurk in “Never Come Back” and “Mousefood” with their industrial grit, whilst a shocking oblique turn awaits at the “Swimming Hole” as the band lounge inside the cartoonish mind of Danny Elfman. Honestly, it’s like something straight out of Tim Burton’s wacky cinematic world – think Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas and you’ll have the perfect song to accompany either soundtrack.
Cramming that little lot in and expecting a natural rhythm to somehow stitch the album together was, of course, asking a little too much. Essentially, Naught is just a hotch-potch assortment of hairem-scarem hits (notably “Prankster” and “Don’t Know”) and misses (dull loons like “Grubbery”, “I Woke Up” and “Splatter”) but, having said that, every single track on the album demands your full attention in the same way that every part of the garish crisis of an album cover demands your full attention. Stolen Babies came in with a bang and, so long as somebody’s still listening to them, they are going to be in your face and waving their arms about.
Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/stolen-babies-naught