Baby! – The Alright Ma’s
After visiting the Alright Mas MySpace, the opening pair of tracks off Baby!, its debut studio offering, seem quite paradoxical. The group advises on its page: Expand your mind. Breathe in the air. Its profile image is a colorful psychedelic swirl dotted with a peace sign. The headline reads, Take me down to Shakedown Street. And its influences range from Miles Davis, to Parliament, to the Allman Brothers, to, you guessed it, Phish.
But what guitarist/producer Jesse Lauter and vocalist Anders Hester turn out is anything but a carbon copy of Rift. Within the synth-carved framework of the opener, King Setting Sun, Hester screams of slitting his wrists in one passage, and spilling blood in another. Hate Yosef, the succeeding tune, only partially lives up to its grim title, on the lyrical side of the coin. (After all, he does beg Let me hate myself tonight in the first verse.) But, alas, its big, catchy chorus — and the surprisingly potent drawing power of Hesters singing voice, a hybrid pitch falling somewhere between Neil Young and 60s-era Bob Dylan — channels an amiable mood.
This marks a noticeable turning point. From here Lauter and Anders songs take a turn for the melodic. The remaining eight tracks, agreeably, abandon themes of gore and suicide. This doesnt mean the rest of the disc is pure hippie candy. Its far from it. (Although the bridge in Senator grooves along in a Wah-wah-led lilt) There are eightiesesque keyboard melodies (First Love) shelved next to campfire-ready acoustic numbers fit for spots on a Live Rust outtakes album (Marigold).
These cuts are still a bit raw, but Baby!s 10 tracks leave you wondering what they could do when left to grow, and, bafflingly, how a garage-rock album can possess such breadth.
Perhaps that was their aim. Indeed, as per MySpace, this band will make you smile.