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God Bless the Blake Babies

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: God Bless the Blake Babies

Artist: Blake Babies
Genre: Rock
Release Date: March 2001
Note(s): NNOE

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

The Blake Babies were a fun, young Boston band. In 1990, they put out Sunburn, a very good, catchy guitar pop record with often painfully honest songs written and sung in a thin, girlish voice by Juliana Hatfield. In 1991, after they released the Rosy Jack World ep, which had a good cover of The Grass Roots' Temptation Eyes, Hatfield broke up the band to go solo. Hatfield's solo career, accompanied by a lot of "next big thing" buzz, went well for a while. Hey Babe was a bit tentative but the songs were good. Become What You Are had great hooks and a big rock sound with Hatfield playing a rocking but also fluidly poppy guitar. Things crashed for Hatfield with 1995's quite awful Only Everything. Since then, after taking a break, Hatfield has done some fairly quiet, modest solo work. At the request of drummer Freda Love Smith(formerly Freda Boner), Blake Babies have reunited to make another record. God Bless The Blake Babies sounds more like Hatfield's mellower recent solo work than the band's earlier tight, low budget rock but, most importantly, God Bless The Blake Babies is simple, ungimmicky and enjoyable.

God Bless The Blake Babies is mostly quite restrained but it starts with a tease of the band's earlier basic rock music. Disappear, which wishes a bitter ex-boyfriend away, was written by Hatfield and guitar player John Strohm. It's an upbeat, breezy rocker in the vein of Sunburn's I'll Take Anything with a good, tight, insistent Strohm guitar line. Smith gets her first solo Blake Babies writing credit on Nothing Ever Happens. It's a pleasantly chugging throwaway with fun, cheesy keyboards that's a little like Hey Babe's Lost And Found. The only other uptempo song is Brain Damage, which is welcome among the otherwise very mellow songs that follow the first two. Brain Damage, written by Hatfield buddies Evan Dando and Ben Lee, has a nice, cool groove. Hatfield and Dando, who Hatfield played with in Lemonheads and her solo work, comfortably share and trade vocal lines. Former screwup Dando, who makes a number of appearances on God Bless, casually sings "I've done all the drugs that I could find."

God Bless The Blake Babies is dominated by ballads. A number of quiet songs on God Bless are very appealing. A cover of Madder Rose's Baby Gets High, Strohm and Hatfield's Until I Almost Died and Hatfield's Waiting For Heaven & What Did I Do(one of her songs about a relationship that went downhill) are simply based around Hatfield's unaffected voice and easy acoustic guitar and drums. They aren't complicated or remarkable but they have a nice, if melancholy, feel like Become What You Are's For The Birds. Hatfield's songs are filled with sadness and regret but they're accessible, much easier to relate to than, say, Sunburn's Watch Me Now, I'm Calling, a depressed tale of self mutilation that leads to trip to the hospital.

Even the songs sung by Strohm and Smith are very enjoyable. Girl In A Box, Strohm's only vocal on Sunburn, was drab and my least favorite song on that CD. Strohm's voice isn't that good or interesting but it works on Picture Perfect, a nice love song. It's a loose rocker that fits the CD's general unassuming atmosphere. His Invisible World isn't very substantial but it's pleasantly laid back. Smith brings to mind Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley, another shy drummer, as she sweetly sings, over a simple guitar played by husband, on When I See His Face that "my love will never wax or wane."

God Bless The Blake Babies is filled with low key pleasures. The Blake Babies, now in their mid 30s, have matured since they were together in the late 80s and early 90s. God Bless The Blake Babies doesn't have the rock thrills of the band's earlier work and it's sometimes a bit vague or downbeat but mostly the music is thoughtful and very pleasant. The CD bodes fairly well for Hatfield's solo career. After she failed to reach the stardom many predicted for her, Hatfield's appeared directionless. On God Bless, Hatfield seems comfortable and well suited to making music that's not so commercially ambitious but appealing in a quiet way.



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