Baby Control – Best War

Baby Control
Best War

It takes Baby Control a mere 22 minutes to provide a primer on the women of post punk. Starting with Kim Gordon and cutting a path through Kathleen Hanna and Sleater-Kinney, finally ending up somewhere between Karen O and Jemina of Be Your Own Pet, all are channeled through lead shrieker Zoe Verkuylen. Not only does her voice lend a familiar sound to these trailblazers but the rest of Baby Control are just as adept at playing a backing karaoke band to her fury.

Though information on their myspace page lists a sole influence of Nirvana this isn’t nearly the sound they create. Best War starts off sloppy and meandering not actually catching fire until the 3rd track, “Best War.” The opening drum pummel of “Gun Face” isn’t the best representation of what’s to come in the next 20 minutes, really a toss off of a song, but once the album progresses it catches fire and becomes a slightly more melodic affair. Words throughout are in short supply but the catchiness of their melodies make for a endearing affair.

There are moments that recall early Sonic Youth guitar scrapings only here they’re presented against a more propulsive rhythm section. Tuneful guitar notes are buried underneath the main guitar, slashing out discordant chords before all coming together in odd bursts of noise. Verkuylen has a method to counteract this with the obnoxious yelps of a 6 year old (example: screaming out “I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go!”) but it still makes for a good listen. “Cuts” is steeped in a more minimal post punk feel, somewhere between Young Marble Giants and Bratmobile if they were part of the No Wave scene. And since Portland isn’t too far off from Baby Control’s home of Vancouver the Sleater-Kinney influence on “High Friends” is heavy. If not for the sweet cooing of the chorus it could easily be seen as a cover of a Call The Doctor b-side.

Much to the chagrin of Baby Control the sounds get sweeter near the completion of the album. Melodies become memorable and the lyrics border on the innocent and carefree. This is probably not the brash image they want to project but it’s charming nonetheless. Though not directly mentioned one can only assume “Caballero,” with it’s lyrics of skateboarding, is about the great 80’s skate legend Steve Caballero. So the Babies get some points for that.

While an eventually enjoyable listen, one has to give it some time and try not to dismiss it as a Be Your Own Pet clone; the band has some maturing to do. Too often individual songs sound like individual artists, but at least they choose the Gordons, Hanna‘s, and Tucker‘s to pool from. Once the group controls the chaos into a more direct and powerful sound, combining all their influences across an entire album, they’ll really stand out.