“Someone to Watch Over Me” by No Babies – Review
Review by Calder Buisch
Brilliant blistering progressive Noisecore to keep you grinding your teeth
No Babies’ new album Someone to Watch Over Me is a brutal Hardcore Noise Punk masterpiece. Screamed politically charged lyrics, punishing drums, wailing horns, screeching guitars, and menacing bass oversaturate this album with abrasive energy. Excluding three 50 second skits, this album maintains its punishing sound throughout. The band brings short bursts of punk brutality that calls to mind the bands Melt Banana and Naked City but maintains a distinctness from other noise punk bands.
Someone to Watch Over Me screams anxiety. Opening with atonal horns over light jazz drums, the first track is creepy and unsettling. This menacing tone is developed further by the starting and stopping of the opening bass riff on the next track “Hazia.” The opening bass riff creates a tension that is built upon by the rapid-fire rim shots and droned horn that comes in before the chaotic riffs and frantic vocals. Throughout the album No Babies uses shifts in tempo and aggression to build tension. On the third track, “Weight,” the song shifts between the sing songy chant “Can’t stand the weight on my mind” to frantic verses screamed over cacophonies of guitar and saxophone. Later in the album, “Luna Nueva / Luna Negra” alternates between relatively mellow (by the standards of this album, yet still abrasive enough to shatter teeth) and eerie sections and grinding thrashy sections of screamed vocals and machine gun drums. Track six “Rabbit Hole” is a melancholic little bedroom acoustic rough draft seemingly thrown into the middle of the madness, making it feel a little like inside joke. Then, two songs later, the hook is used as a motif in the middle of one of the most aggressive songs on the album. The call back is both refreshing and unsettling, adding to the general paranoia this album builds throughout.
No Babies technical skill is incredibly impressive. Ricky Martyr’s guitar work on Someone to Watch Over Me is frantic and off the wall in such a way that it could make Greg Ginn blush. “Nettle” features this off-kilter, sliding riff that pops out of the song in a hundred different directions. On numerous songs on the album the guitar refuses to get locked in in any conventional way, defiantly rejecting expectation, mocking the listener. When it does play a riff, the riff is screechy and pulsating, such as on “The Grains, The Fruit, The Land, The Blood.” The horns and guitar interact in a chaotically complimentary way, bouncing off each other to subvert the predictable and accentuate the aggressiveness of the other. The title track that closes the album The guitar lays down a ringing plucked riff as the horns come in and out on top of it. Laura DeVeber’s horn-playing squeals and stabs its way through the album, jumping out unexpectedly on songs like “Luna Nueva / Luna Negra” and “In A Dream.” Sean Nieves drums never subside, frantically driving the songs forward, shifting emphatically during transitions. Kicks pound at high speeds, cymbals crash dramatically and noisily, snares roll aggressively. Singer Jasmine Watson’s politically charged lyrics meld perfectly with this musical meltdown. At times she will sing deceivingly melodically over the noise, but often she switches to her more frustrated and angry screams during songs. Lyrically they explore politically relevant topics such as gender identity, class struggle, and society. All of these are dealt with with intense passion and frustration that is carried in the music.
No Babies’ new album is an example of innovative and frustrated hardcore noise rock in 2018. They deliver with skull shattering energy that keeps the listener on edge throughout. For fans of Melt-Banana, Lightning Bolt, and Black Flag at their thrashiest, No Babies is a must listen.
You can catch Calder on WPTS’ premier punk rock show The Electric Bananarama from 6 to 8 on Tuesdays and follow him on Twitter @97c8 ! This review was edited by Stevie Priller of the WPTS Editorial Board.