A lot has happened in the six years since Glasgow’s godfathers of punk Baby Strange last released a full-length album. Pandemics, politics and pertinent new faces in music have all taken to the fore. Yet, in ‘World Below’, Baby Strange distil the same tenacity and straight-talking viewpoints of the world they live in like they’ve always done – with an added surprise or two along the way.
The album’s title track marries well with its accompanying cover, sonically submerging you into a dark, eery and wet concrete jungle that’s more reminiscent of Tokyo cityscape than that of Glasgow. But its bright advertisement boards draw up thought-provoking messages of being bound by rules during the pandemic, mental health and class divides, which the three-piece outfit say were all core inspirations behind the writing process of their sophomore album.
“Wake up open your eyes / It’s so wonderful here,” is the ironic chant that takes centre stage in follow-up track ‘Beating In Time’ while ‘Under The Surface’ continues the album’s rebellious feel with intense guitars that pair nicely with poppier vocal melodies.
‘Only Feel It When I’m With You’, which guest features Hayley Mary from Australian band The Jezabels, marks a notable turning point. The band’s shift in style to a more ominous, minimalistic tone is excellent. The trap-tinged vocal delivery in the verses is almost unheard of for a Glasgow punk band to pull off. But if they’d let go of their gritty reins a bit more and delved further into this new territory across the rest of the album, it could’ve made for a trendsetting piece of work.
As it is, the remainder of ‘World Below’ channels the band’s distinct punky guitar sound. It’s harnessed by their self-production at Glasgow’s 7 West Studios, which can also be heard in the sound of hometown contemporaries like Uninvited and Gallus. ‘Poor Old Me’ is bound to be a crowd-pleaser come live performances with its anthemic choruses and hard-hitting guitar riffs. ‘When It Calls’ offers another promising quirky moment, channelling Roxy Music with its unusual synths and danceable grooves before ‘Higher’ returns to a feel more synonymous with Baby Strange’s 2016 debut, ‘Want It Need It’.
Blasting out to a cacophony of screams and distorted guitars by its conclusion, ‘World Below’ is an enjoyable listen, peppered with ear-pricking moments of curiosity. An aura of defiance runs through the work as a whole, synonymous with the Glasgow band’s no-nonsense reputation that’s best exhibited live on stage.
If they’d dared to be a little more vulnerable with their sonic approach, ‘World Below’ could’ve been an immense album. Nonetheless, Baby Strange are back in valiant style.
Words: Jamie Wilde
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