Madison, WI's The New Baldones offer up twitchy, funky, groovy punk blues with one eye on the past, while remaining firmly fixed on the future.
There was a strange and interesting period in the late '70s and early '80s when art-minded punkers sought to integrate the many different threads of the post-punk diaspora - African rhythms and trebly guitars - into new and interesting shapes. These explorations yielded a number of very different bands that still had a cohesion, despite working in different styles,
The rigid, tense art-funk of Talking Heads and The Feelies brought a new language of anxious ease, like mannequins coming to breakdancing life, while bands like Jonathan Richman's The Modern Lovers brought a similar strain of tensile guitar rock to mod and '50s rock 'n roll. This was a music that seemed both sarcastic and heartfelt, self-conscious and self-aware while still just doing their thing, singing songs about their personal experiences, as every band does.
The New Baldones bear a very strong sonic resemblance to Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers, as well as the acoustic funky punk of The Violent Femmes, who also hailed from Wisconsin. The New Baldones have the same uncanny knack at crafting insanely catchy melodic hooks, with razor sharp guitars wielded in quick burst staccato ska rhythms and the bass boogies like a midnight on the bayou.
While The New Baldones clearly have a love of music past, the lyrical matter of The Last Bookstore deal with both the present and the future, taking stock of the changing world, wondering what will happen next. Title track and album opener "The Last Bookstore" does a wonderful job of symbolizing the seismic cultural shifts we're all navigating, using simply the image of an empty bookstore as a lament for the death of literacy.
Similarly, "May Heart Sinks" straddles this dichotomy, using the imagery of a restless nocturnal drive to get over a heartbreak, with a delirious woozy synth over toppling tom-toms and a particularly memorable and melodic guitar solo, reminding us of why post-punk and New Wave was so imperative to begin with.
The New Baldones offer hope of a world that is both freewheeling and funky, while still being self-aware and conscious of the past. This balance is razor-fine for artists, who no doubt have whole pantheons of patron saints that they love and admire, that set them on the path towards being musicians. We all must pay homage to these influences, without succumbing to parody or emulation.
The New Baldones are none of those things. There's no good name for this style of music, which is a shame as it would make it easier to seek out. Those that dig acoustic funk ska-a-billy rock 'n roll with a big vocabulary and a big heart need to hear this now!
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