Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stolen Babies - There Be Squabbles Ahead

I recently caught Stolen Babies in Dallas at the Epic Kings and Idols show, having never heard of them prior. With Devin Townsend bringing them on board as an opening act it should come as no surprise that Stolen Babies are quite…..odd. Getting the nod of approval from the almighty Devy himself certainly lends them some credibility to the uninitiated, and after witnessing their wacky odd-ball live show (highly enjoyable even though they had about as much stage room to work with as you could cram into a phone booth) I was immediately compelled to run over to the merch booth and pick up There Be Squabbles Ahead, complete with a little yellow window sticker that says Stolen Babies On Board (I thought this was funny as hell, my wife not so much).

Despite an A for effort stage show that was a bit underwhelming due to the venue’s less than stellar sound system, I am pleased to report that There Be Squabbles Ahead, released way back in 2006, is a very strong and, perhaps more importantly, unique album. Picture an Alice Cooper mentality in theatrics, with a Halloween (the holiday, not the band) feel, and competent punk rock riffs balanced with more aggressive metal breakdowns and you have an idea of what you’re in for. The most notable feature of the band is the diversity of what is used in the music. Just reading out of the liner notes, we have a glockenspiel, jaw harp, mandolin, baby sitar, toy piano, tuba, euphonium, and a “shriek of fervor”. Oh and the lead singer, a female with a nice smoky jazz parlor styled voice that also dips into some growls here and there, plays an accordion. Yep, a friggin accordion. At the concert this detail was sort of lost in the wall of sound effect, however on the album it shines through and gives a very nice flavor to the music. Other touches are the use of an up-right bass on certain songs, and various effects accomplished with chains and so on, that all lead to a very playful vibe that is never really lost, despite the more often than not aggressive nature of the songs.

Awful Fall, Filistata, Tablescrap, and Push Button are all standout tracks, with the latter having a very cool video to it. So Close is by far my favorite of the album, with a heavy groove and insanely catchy chorus. On the downside, I think songs like Spill and Mind Your Eyes lose a lot of the unique qualities I enjoy in favor of a more aggressive and standard approach. Swint? or Slude? is also an unnecessary interlude that I skip every time.

Overall There Be Squabbles Ahead is a fun album that will certainly be appreciated by those with an ear for more “out there” fare. Energetic and perfect for Halloween, this is one hell of an enjoyable album.

--Audio Renaissance

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