It’s been about a year and a half since The Babies first emerged onto the music scene, and the band was birthed thanks to Woods’ Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone. They were sharing an apartment in New York for a period of time, and wrote a handful of songs together. Bringing in drummer Justin Sullivan from the band Bossy, they wound up recording a number of songs and playing some live shows, but had no established plan as to how or when they were going to release them. The first taste of Babies’ recorded material came via their Myspace page back in August of 2009 when the songs “All Things Come to Pass” and “Meet Me in the City” appeared there. Other than that though and the occasional show, The Babies have been relatively quiet. Thanks to Shrimper though, their self-titled debut album will finally emerge from the womb next Tuesday.
The Babies’ sound really carries a lot of the DNA from the two parent bands of Woods and Vivian Girls. Woods has a very lo-fi/no-fi classic and stoner rock-informed sound, and Vivian Girls do lo-fi jangly garage pop. Put them together and it amounts to lo-fi stoner garage pop, which is probably the easiest way to define it. Morby is the chief songwriter for the band, though he shares vocal duties pretty equally with Ramone either in the form of duets, backing vocals/harmonies or switching off tackling full songs solo. The whole thing has a very relaxed and informal vibe to it as well, which helps to not take the songs too seriously when listening to them. Opening track and unofficial single “Run Me Over” is a very bouncy and catchy rock song, pretty perfectly melding some ramshackle grunge-ish guitars with a dose of psychedelic haze. “Sunset” feels a lot like a lost Pixies track, and while Morby is no Frank Black, Ramone does a fantastic Kim Deal with a touch of Kim Gordon. “All Things Come to Pass” is pretty much a Ramone solo cut, but it bears a lot of Woods’ sound in a very nice campfire singalong style sort of way. Then “Meet Me in the City” does a nice job of pulling a Vivian Girls via Wavves sort of thing, with Morby at the lead vocal helm and Ramone providing some nice backup harmonies. “Personality” has a lot of what the title suggests, a raucous punk track that rages for under 90 seconds before flaming out like it should. Everything sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom somewhere, and it bears the marks of a band like The Misfits or The Dead Kennedys, though not quite with the sense of outrage those bands tended to promote. Funny then that a song like “Breakin’ the Law”, which you’d expect to be pretty anti-establishment, is one of the album’s slower cuts that tells the story of a Bonnie and Clyde-like couple that have “retired” from committing crimes. “Wild I” is perhaps the most emotionally raw and beautiful song that Cassie Ramone has ever done with any of her projects. It’s a dark and rather depressing track with layers of electric guitars that speak perfectly to the tone. “I’m so tired of waking up/to the pain that’s inside my head/it’s a pain that you never had”, she sings at one point, channeling a mixture of Liz Phair, PJ Harvey and a half dozen other scorned women going through a bad breakup. The track that follows it is “Wild II”, with Morby taking on the male perspective in this failed relationship. He chooses to take the higher road and a little brighter view of things, essentially saying that he tried to make things work, and though they didn’t in the end, he’s confident that there’s somebody else out there for him. It lacks the conviction and layered melody of its predecessor but still does a decent job getting the point across.
In Woods, Kevin Morby plays bass and doesn’t really do any writing or singing. Courtesy of The Babies, he now has the opportunity to do both. He’s not exactly amazing at either, but he fares just decently enough. When compared to his side project bandmate Cassie Ramone, he’s clearly the weaker link. For a band like The Babies though, with the slacker melodies and lo-fi aesthetic, such things like vocal ability and brilliant wordplay are low on the priority list. Instead, catchy melodies and fun vibes are king, which thankfully The Babies seem to have in spades. This self-titled debut is a nice, low pressure respite from the higher expectations of both members’ day jobs. Treat it with kid gloves and you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to fall in love with something that’s largely still in its infant state. Okay, no more baby puns.