Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WMP Nominees - Sweet Baboo

I've been reviewing all the albums that are nominated for this year's Welsh Music Prize. If you're starting're starting in the wrong place.

If there's one thing I like about Ships, it's the title. I like how the name reflects both the album's nautical feel and its lyrical themes (relationships, geddit?) I've no idea if this double meaning was intentional, but hey, it's a nice touch.

If there's one thing I don't like about Ships, it's that bastard Morse code song. Partially because it's inaccurate - don't worry, I checked so you don't have to - but mainly because it makes me feel like my dad. "Oh, shut up," I find myself saying as Mr Baboo prepares to repeat that same line another four times. I like repetitive songs when that repetition is mined for emotional weight*, a compelling sound**, or just a hypnotic rhythm***, but The Morse Code for Love is Beep Beep, Beep Beep, The Binary Code is One One (seriously, even if the song were any good, I'd still hate it for its name) fails to strike gold on any of those three fronts. It's too ham-fisted to draw me in or make me feel anything besides irritated, and the rhythm could have been composed by Mario baddies. Thwomp! Clomp! Et cetera.

File:Thwomp 64.png
No, I will not be embedding that stupid song in my blog. Seek it out yourself if you're curious.

I was ready to tear this album apart on the weaknesses of that one dreadful track, but actually, everything else is much better. I love the Stylophone (?) solo on If I Died..., I love the brisk, trotting pace of You Are a Wave, and since I'm a horn player I'm pretty much required to love the fact that there's brass all over this album. I even love how some of these songs sound like The Beautiful Briny from Bedknobs and Brooksticks (or, if you'd prefer a more contemporary reference, that mermaid song from Flight of the Conchords). it better than Praxis Makes Perfect?
I'm afraid not. While The Morse Code... is this album's sole example of actual bad songwriting, several other songs suffer from a moist, cloying tweeness that rather dampens my enjoyment of the album. There's a great line in track one (hear it in the video below) about how Daniel Johnston has hundreds of great songs and Sweet Baboo only has six, so he's got quite a bit of catching up to do; I wanted the whole album to be packed with lyrics like that, but instead, I got some toe-curling guff about a 'mermaid cutie' that made my brain try to squirm out through my ears. That's only one example, in fairness, but I feel like there's plenty of scope for emotional heft here - the aforementioned opening track, for example, finds the narrator wondering if he'll be remembered after his death - and it's been squandered in favour of cutesy couplets about mermaids and coconuts and fishies and yay.

I still like the seafaring theme, although Ships was never going to live up to the high standards set by Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank in the nautical album league. Nor could it usurp the throne that Neon Neon have been sitting on since I started meandering through the WMP shortlist; I think I'm doing the Laurence Made Me Cry album next Wednesday, so be sure to come back and see if that fares any better.

*See She Don't Love Me No More by The Aliens
**See Falling Down a Mountain by Tindersticks
***See Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem

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