Real quick before I review this awesome album, let me run you through the history of Rock that has repeated itself every few years like clockwork, since Maybellene divided popular music scholarship into BCB and ACB periods:
Somebody does something cool with rock music.
Then everything gets bloated and boring, the innovator moves to arena shows, and somebody dies. People take themselves too goddamn seriously.
“ROCK IS DEAD!!!” cries whatever the time-period specific iteration of a “blog” is (Newspapers, MTV, probably a worldwide neural net next time this starts).
Then somebody strips away the bullshit and makes really fun cool music again and we go back to step one.
Chuck Berry does Maybellene, Rock gets big, then three important dudes die, mediocrity reigns– Then the British invade and blow everything wide open again! Then the cool British dudes get too introspective and flower powery, and KAPOW glam rockers smash every goddamn sitar in the world, but slip up somewhere and Bob Seger and The Eagles become gigantic stars only to get ousted by four trashboys from Queens singing about pizza and the beach. Again and again this happens.
So let’s get back to today– Who’s the biggest Rock (well, “Rock”) band in the world? Grammys say Mumford and his infernal goddamn Sons, Coldplay or Nickelback also lay claim to the title- which bums me out in a way that only fistfulls of pizza rolls and a slurpee cup of gin can remedy. Everything is kind of bloated and serious and annoying so you know what that means, dude?
It’s an exciting time to be alive is what it means.
We’re due for a Jack White or a Kurt Cobain or some other outsider to peel away useless layers of banjo and whispery boredom from popular music and make everything cool and fun again. At least shave the beards.
Now to the meat: I’m not ready to say that Baby Bee are launching the singular proton torpedo guitar attack that will start the chain reaction to destroy an extremely mediocre Death Star, but goddamn if they aren’t in red squadron. Their new EP The Shaker (Republic Records, 2013) totally blew me away.
Right off the bat they got a lotta good signs: It’s just two dudes in the band, they’re brothers, they’re from the south, neither one has a beard and the album cover features them in matching jackets. I think I remember saying “Thank God” out loud when I saw it. You probably heard them first in The Walking Dead without even knowing it when their song “Love Bug” was featured in an episode in season three.
Now, I’m new to music journalism so be sure to send me an e-mail if cereal metaphors are passé at this point but The Shaker hit me like a bowl of Cap’n Crunch’s Oops! All Berries (Quaker Oats, 1997). The first bite, High Heel Leather Boots, is just so crunchy and sweet with the poppy “oohs” and the snapping snare that you let the sharp crunchberries cut up your damn mouth with frenzied chewing. I think that good pop snatches your attention every time there’s a change (verse to chorus, chorus to bridge, chorus to solo) and these boys have an intrinsic feel for that. “If you wanna cut loose, we can kick it like high heeled leather boots” is a phrase I’m kicking myself for not turning.
“Another and Another” redoubles the duo’s commitment to being real dang filthy with their fine selves. It’s a classic dag-girl-why-you-gotta-be-so-hot number with a pleading pre-chorus and some middle-eight panting that sounds exactly like garrote wire pulled to its maximum sexual tensile limit. I get the sense that if I put it on a jukebox at the bar, somebody with daisy dukes would immediately walk in in slow motion.
The cereal gets a little soggy on track three, “Jet Black.” It’s a little too heavy on the gumbo for me, but it’s got a groove. I could see it on the True Blood soundtrack, being used at the end of an episode to underscore some insane nudity-related twist. I’m a little less clear on the story in this song compared to the first two. There is a hot lady, one or both Starks are interested in getting to know her in the biblical sense, my main problem is that the verses don’t really relate to the chorus, a repeated call of “Jet Black.” But then again my favorite line on the album is probably “Do me like a dirty deed,” so my notions of lyrical wit are probably suspect.
But finally, the sugared-up milk is all that’s left: “Bang It Out” sounds like the kind of song that Andrew WK would write if he grew up on the bayou. It’s a simple feelgood song about following your dreams, coated with some more falsetto background vocals and a four on the floor beat that sets off a miniature Footloose explosion of dance inside your body.
Anyway, that wraps it up- it’s all over and you can go watch X-Men. Four sweet tracks that could take you to the gym or to the beach in a vintage convertible or on an airboat chase through a swamp. If you don’t want to take my word for it the whole EP is streaming on SoundCloud, but I say Viva La Baby Bee, baby.