Listening to the debut LP from Danish trio Baby In Vain is a bit like diving into an ocean: it gets heavier and darker the deeper you get. Anyone who heard last year's fantastic 'For The Kids' EP won't be surprised by the incredible, often brutal, racket kicked up by three girls and zero bassists. But, while tracks like 'Martha's View' and older singles like 'Machine Gun Girl' relied on the motor of their central guitar attack to drive the rest of the track, here the focus is more on elegantly crafting songs rather than seeking the mammoth mountains of distorted riffage guitarists Andrea Thuesen Johansen and Lola Hammerich evidently have a knack for cranking out.
The band's more doomish tendencies are suppressed for the first two thirds of the album in favour of a more melodic, lo-fi indie approach that shares DNA with the likes of Girlpool and The Courtneys. OK, we suppose it’s probably the right move to make for a band who are still so audibly hewing out their musical identity, and hopefully it will get them on 6 Music’s regular rotation. Still, it's a shame that a sharp-fanged band feel like they have to muzzle themselves somewhat in order to master a few new tricks. Why settle for the strength of a shield maiden when you could have the might of a Valkyrie?
That being said, even Baby In Vain's calmest songs have a bite to them. 'One Feather's creeping guitar plucking hangs miasma-like above the surrounding song, drifting gently over sharpened pine forests of gothic splendour. Elsewhere the wistful 'Low Life' boasts a stellar organ progression and leaks the same effortless cool Chastity Belt exude on every release (even if the song's failure to fully utilise some initially promising Bowie-esque saxophone loses it points). Things go really wrong on the uninspired, mid-album nadir 'She', an unsuccessful crack at a stadium singalong that sounds like it could easily be substituted for any of the lazy Beatles imitations on Kasabian's 'Empire'.
Part of the problem with the record’s more straightforward tracks is that Johansen and Hammerich's vocals work best when they're either dripping with sarcasm or fraying round the edges with insanity. Standout bruiser 'Thank You' sees them pushing the latter approach as far as it goes, their screams leaping out of the speakers and clawing the listeners' ears. It's followed towards the end of the album by the glorious stoner sludge of 'Apoca', basically the greatest Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats Song not to be written by Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Sure there are also plenty of fun moments on the album's first half, 'To Heaven and Back's combination of growled Iggy Pop verses and ‘60s girl group choruses, the Sleater-Kinney brattiness of 'Transcendence'; but these two later tracks in particular demonstrate the fury and finesse Baby in Vain command when they have a firm grasp of where their strengths lie.
Ultimately your enjoyment of ‘More Nothing’ will stem from what you wanted to hear from the trio. If you’re a fan of the more charming, Joanna Gruesome-esque side of their music, then this will be a step in the right direction for you. If you were hoping for them to explore the gnarlier, doom-laden edge of their sound then there is still plenty to enjoy, especially towards the album’s end. But largely the band’s brutality takes a back seat, leaving more sludge-enamoured listeners wondering what we could have had if Baby In Vain had allowed their grittier tendencies to seize the wheel and drive them into the dark depths where none of their peers would dare to venture.
Words: Josh Gray
- - -
- - -
For tickets to the latest Baby In Vain shows click HERE.
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.