Posted on September 21, 2012 AT 09:35pm
Six long years have passed between the stellar first album by the California avant-garde rock band Stolen Babies, There Be Squabbles Ahead, and their latest, Naught. In those six years, not a whole lot have been heard from the band, who have been doing their best to tour despite their modest, but loyal following. While many fans may have lost their way with the band’s lack of output, the band picks up right where they left off on Squabbles, reinforcing the notion that they are one of the best band on the music scene that no one knows about.
While Squabbles came a shot from the dark, so to speak, Naught doesn’t come with that advantage. The band has already established themselves as a combination of many different genres, from their use of carnival music to the heavy rock and punk infused riffs, so the advantage of surprise is lost the second time around. While not a detriment, some of the dynamic has been lost in that case, weakening the overall impact for the listener on many of the tracks.
Naught keeps the strange yet satisfying allure of the group intact, with melodic and ethereal slow tracks such as “Swimming Hole” and “Second Sleep”, along with the signature heavy riffs and screams on tracks such as “Mousefood”, “Never Come Back” and the re-release of a classic,”Civil Disguise”.
While the album as a whole doesn’t compare to the raw energy of Squabbles, the band seems to be on a higher level when it comes to comfort and production. The sound quality is much better, and the band themselves seem to all be on the same page, even more than on the previous album, especially with more obvious backing vocals by the rest of the band, with an emphasis on bassist Rani Sharone.
The most impressive part of the album may be by vocalist Dominique Persei, however. While the impressive portion isn’t her vocals (though they are gorgeous), but more how they’re delivered. She fluently moves between hauntingly beautiful clean vocals with wobbly vibrato seeping off each note to raspy, guttural growls with ease, and in live settings, doesn’t even change her facial expression while doing so. This vocal dynamic is one of the aspects that makes Stolen Babies so unique, and adding it to their varied music identity makes it easy to see why this band is as difficult to put a finger on.
That being said, the long layoff did have its detriments. The song arrangement made it a bit hard to flow with, especially on the first listen. It got much easier on the next few spins, but initially, the songs don’t flow in a manner than makes it easy to follow. Also: while the album was much better in terms of production, the sound did seem a bit thin at times. Whether that was an intentional play made by using a simpler song structure on the slower songs or just as result of how things wound up in the mix, it is apparent throughout a most of the record.
Summary: Despite a few hiccups, this album is proof as to why everyone who has never heard this band needs to go out and do so right this minute. It’s a terrific album from a unique group whose body of work is just getting going. Hopefully, they won’t need to take another six years to release another record. However, if its as good of a follow-up effort as this, it’ll be worth the wait. This is simply a great album that will not disappoint.
Notable tracks: “Never Come Back”, “Mousefood”, “Second Sleep”
The Good: A Fun, Dynamic Record
The Bad: Song Arrangements Don’t Flow Well
The Ugly: Thin Sound Quality
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