To hinge a record on a concept is a risky business. It’s like writing a novel in music, but not necessarily a musical. This musical-novel experiment is what I’d like to compare London based rockers Babytiger’s first release to. The record is called Death of the Book, and its narrative traverses, as the band so eloquently puts it “…recounts the apocalypse as told through the eyes of the accidental annihilator.”
The opening track “Dreams on the Television” begins this dreamscape of a record. Here we are introduced to that intricately hazy reverberance of guitars that echo the Smiths, the Cure, and My Bloody Valentine to name just a few. It has to it however, a bit more pop-friendliness than its predecessors (excepting maybe the Smiths). But this seems a crucial requirement for a band that aims to dabble in such oddly re-resurrected genres such as shoe-gaze and brit pop.
Take for instance the next track “Nursery Rhymes” which oozes with delectably simple rhythms and lyrical end rhymes, which along with the classic drone of space-echo guitar chiming in from time to time really dig its claws in so that it sounds just as much as most ‘80s and ‘90s brit pop rock bands that didn’t really find much success on the other side of the pond.
Babytiger take a slight diversion from this path on “Sunsets” on which they hammer out with a little bit more hard rock electricity and even a bit of the old sneering hints of punk and post rock. This transition comes as a welcomed surprise and shows Babytiger willing to creep out of their cage a little bit. But just as quickly as they start to show their teeth, they transition into the haunting, despondent and slightly Radiohead-esque “Bad Days” which is hollow and sleepy, with a tinny echo and void-like softness. From here they fuse the pop with the rock on the parallel Arctic Monkeys type rocker, “Death Of The Book /Sinclair Spectrum Death March.”
On the final track “Needles” Babytiger has brought all of their previously aforementioned song crafting skills to the table to rock out one hell of an album closer. It combines the walls of sound and screamingly beautiful guitars with a sometimes friendly, sometimes just hostile-enough vocal flair to really round out the emotion.
As a fan of brit pop and rock from as far back as the mid to late ‘80s I felt that Death of the Book brought me back to those days, while also giving me a look at the future of this genre through a lens that is tightly focused on both the past and the present, a true mixing of both worlds.
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