Hot on the heels of their Brooklyn stablemates MGMT comes five piece Amazing Baby, formed in January 2008, with the release of their debut album, Rewild. If you enjoyed the psych-prog rock pop dabblings of MGMT then you'll very much enjoy what Baby's masterminds Will Roan and Simon O'Connor offer up here. This is widescreen, technicolour progressive rock that still has a lush pop sensibility running through its veins. Produced by the quintet with engineer Claudius Mittendorfer (Muse and Interpol) and additional production duties from Santigold's John Hill this is full of sonic fireworks, masses of multi-tracking, overdubs, fuzz, reverb, echo and piles of guitar, string sections, brass, percussion and whooshing, spacey electronics. Add in luscious vocal harmonising and a wonderfully idosyncratic singing style from Will Roan, who seems to be channelling Bolan, Gavin Friday and Elvis Costello and the soundscape is complete.
This overwhelming hybrid of Beach Boys vocal dexterity, folk, psych rock, electronica and pop drags in influences from far and wide, acknowledging their Brooklyn fellows MGMT and also feeding the aural blender with the glam of Roxy Music and Marc Bolan, the post-punk and cabaret stylings of The Virgin Prunes and Gavin Friday, even the acid drenched shuffle of Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. It's a blousy, riotous concoction that drags in orchestral flourishes, Mariachi brass stylings and twisted guitar figures. Barmy backing vocals too.
It should be a mess. Yet, somehow, the band and their producers marshal all of these elements to thrilling effect, marking out Amazing Baby with a fairly unique sound. Opening Bayonets has an almost ELO feel to it with high strings and glam stomp and chugs along beautifully with a light, airy feel, dollops of reverb and guitar whizzing across the soundscape. Big power chords and strings drive Invisible Palace and Roan almost whispers the lyrics against an Enoesque ambient electronic soundscape before the swooping guitars pile back in, Roan's vocals then stretched through reverb. One of the best tracks, Kankra, is is all bubbling synths and pounding drums, guitar fuzz, gorgeous keening backing vocals, with Roan doing a passable Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel impression. Punky, soaring and it delivers a wonderful climax of booming bass drums, skating and wheeling guitars with Roan moaning 'we are the living sun' as if possessed by a time-travelling hippie. The outstanding single Headdress is a bizarre mix of Bolan, Suede and Pulp, a huge production featuring lush female backing vocals moaning over curlicues of guitar loveliness and lullaby electronics. Roan confesses 'I did to you what ya did to me. But I did it so unexpectedly I was angggraaayyy', his vocal lilt at the end of the line sending shivers down the spine. Stunning.
Dead Light shifts the album further into brass tinged folk rock, mellower in mood than the opening tracks where the chorus is gradually buried by shuffling drums, screeching guitars and electronics. The climax of guitar and 'wa-oh-oh' backing vocals continues to carry the airy 60s vibe of the album. You can detect the Happy Mondays influence on the energetic Deerripper and Old Tricks In Hell has a dreamy, beautiful sound of trippy ELP like organ, Bolanesque vocals, skittering percussion topped off with sighing backing vocals, pulsing, shivering electronics. The epic The Narwhal has dotty, soaring vocals, a madrigal like opening of folksy acoustic guitar and a rich string section coupled with Roan gabbling on about gypsies, witches and flying kites. It picks up the pace with kicking drums and then trails off into a delicious combination of flute and harp, all tinkling and shimmering descent.
Grabbing bits of Traffic and Mamas And Papas, Roverfrenz features one of Roan's best performances, truly bizarre backing vocals and a gutsy Mick Ronson style guitar lick right off the Spiders From Mars album. A wonderfully atmospheric track full of yearning that closes with fuzzy guitar, woodwind and a tinkling piano. Smoke Bros and Pump Yr Brakes bring this odyssey to an end. The former skips along on the back of a great guitar lick and undulating keyboards and has a slightly left field chanting chorus repeating 'we are starving cannibals' for no reason I can fathom. Oh, and a bit of Mariachi brass to close with. The latter, Pump Yr Brakes, is a stadium stomper with insistent guitar licks and whooshing synth soundscapes and a great chorus with lots of 'oh,oh,oh' protestations from Roan over handclaps, fuzzy glam guitars, psyched out electronics and tons of reverb. Delicious.
Promo video for Headdress
It shouldn't work but they clearly know what they're about and this debut is something quite special with enough bold aural experimentation and warped rock and pop sensibilities to keep the most jaded enthusiastically entertained.
REWILD - Amazing Baby (Shangri-La AFT 101030 - Released 22nd June 2009)
Amazing Baby on My Space
Cathode Ray Tube Amazing Baby Rewild
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
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