The Babies brings its noisy rock to Our House on the Hill
Our House on the Hill (Woodsist)
On the Babies’ 2011 self-titled debut, the band established itself as a gritty partnership between Vivian Girls frontwoman Cassie Ramone and Woods bassist Kevin Morby, and their sound was more or less a hybrid of their principal projects. The follow-up, however, is largely Morby’s show. He takes the lead on the bulk of these 12 twangy tracks, with his more famous bandmate frequently relegated to a support role.
This doesn’t work to the Babies’ advantage. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Morby’s songs, since they offer a competently punchy blend of noisy rock and ragtag folk. The surging “Mess Me Around” is a standout, thanks to wickedly spiteful lyrics like “You’re a dumb fuck, you fucking idiot,” and the opener, “Alligator”, boasts a melodic and quick-fingered guitar solo.
The problem is that neither his voice nor his songs are quite as distinctive as Ramone’s; for a case in point, see the way “On My Team” improves immediately when Ramone takes over the microphone during the final minute. Morby-sung acoustic cuts like “Mean” and “That Boy” fall flat, while some of the more upbeat numbers come across as standard-grade roots rock, this because of the collection’s relatively crisp fidelity (which sounds far less murky than the band’s debut).
Unless the Babies can deliver some more memorable tunes next time around, they’re doomed to be forever considered a footnote in the careers of Vivian Girls and Woods.