20 August 2015

Baby Chaos - Skulls Skulls Skulls Show Me The Glory

Band reformations are a funny thing. I always find myself torn between elation at the return of an old favourite and the impending dread of “But what if it’s shit?”  

Glaswegian Britrock band, Baby Chaos released their last album, (recorded under the name, Deckard), in 2003 and split a year or so later. Eleven years later (nineteen if you take it from when they last released something as Baby Chaos) and we have the oddly titled Skulls Skulls Skulls Show Me The Glory (One or the other would have done surely!). I still listen to their old albums on a fairly regular occurrence so I was a little concerned what this would turn out like. The fact that it features all four original members and they've remained friends in the interim bodes well I think.

Their first two albums, released under the name Baby Chaos, were:  Safe Sex, Designer Drugs and The Death Of Rock And Roll, a brash spiky ball of metallic Pop Punk attitude, and Love Your Self Abuse, a darker, heavier and more disturbing brand of Alternative Rock. The next two, Stereodreamscene and Dreams Of Dynamite And Divinity, saw the band rebranded as Deckard and developing a mellower, introspective and mature sound. Stereodreamscene still had a handful of hard songs but was much more restrained than the former albums. Dreams Of Divinity… was softer still and wasn’t quite up to the standard of the other three but was still a good, solid album.

So where does that leave Skulls...? The name change would imply they’ve gone back to the harder stuff but, in reality, it straddles the gap between the two styles; there are big chunky riffs but also soft melodies and sweeping Prog-like flourishes. Opening track and first single You Can’t Shut Us Up is an engaging and straightforward rock song and probably the most Baby Chaosy songs on the album.  Blackbirds kicks off with with some beefy guitars but they soon give way to a gentle verse that builds itself to a fantastic chorus. It serves as a way to highlight the amalgamation of the old Baby Chaos crunch with Deckard's emotional maturity.
(l-r) Bobby Dunn, Chris Gordon, Grant McFarlane, Davy Greenwood 

The Whispering of Giants starts with a lone, fragile vocal and a softly strummed guitar that, again, gradually builds up into a soaring and uplifting chorus. It sounds like it could have been taken straight from Dreams Of Dynamite And Divinity. Have Faith In Yourself is similarly uplifting and is carried along by a driving, stop-start riff and barked, staccato vocals. The weird, creepy kids choir is an added bonus! PPP Peaches picks up the pace again and is a fun, pop rock song and I’ve been singing the “In my heeeart” refrain all morning. Poison Ivy Girls continues the upbeat poppiness, despite dealing lyrically with a girl going off the rails. We Were Youth is yet another bouncy, poppy song that would make a good single. Whether or not it refers to the band reforming or not I’m unsure. Let’s just assume so. 

Out Of The Silence slows it down again and is the closest thing to a ballad on Skulls... It’s not the most immediate of songs but, after a few listens, it starts to stand out more and seep into your brain. It's a beautiful and anthemic song.  Risk And Writhing is much rockier and whilst it's a pretty good song, the final closing minute or so of pure metal riffery, however, is wonderful.
A Tingling On Your Bright Skin harks back to the uncomfortable perviness of several of the songs on Love Your Self Abuse,  Final song, Habibi seems like it’s going to be a pretty little ballad to finish but then 25 seconds in a huge, doomy riff bursts forth and the next four minutes are filled with sheer, bruising joy. 

Skulls Skulls Skulls Show Me The Glory is a near flawless album filled with equal parts anger and beauty. I find it very hard to decide on what my favourite track is, there are no weaker songs, no filler. It’s worth a listen whether or not you were familiar with the band before this album. So yeah, bands reforming and releasing new material can be a bad thing but sometimes, just sometimes, mind, it can be a very good thing indeed.

9 out of 10 – Almost Perfect… Almost

Best Track: Habibi. Or Blackbirds. Poison Ivy Girls maybe. Definitely Have Faith In Yourself. Yeah. No wait, Out Of The Silence! 

You can listen to it on Spotify HERE 

You can buy it direct from the band (with a bonus EP) HERE

P.S. I got all the way through the review without once mentioning The Wildhearts or Muse. Ha! Stick that, other reviewers.

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