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No Babies - "Someone To Watch Over Me" | Album Review


by Joshua Hoey (@reflectiveDIY)

Oakland-centered punk combo No Babies create joyous, chaotic sound that aims toward liberation via strange noises and strident political poetry. After over a decade of sporadic gigging, touring, and recording they present just their second full-length, Someone To Watch Over Me. In the proud tradition of such "out" genres/scenes as no wave, post-punk, free jazz, and whatever else weirdos plying difficult sounds have called their work, songs such as "The Grains, The Fruit, The Land, The Blood" walk a seemingly impossible line between intentionality and randomness. 

After opener "DMFB," a minute of sax and skittering drum work, the band kicks into high gear with "Hazia," introducing the crux of No Babies' sound - the caterwauling, yet tuneful, vocals and syncopated saxophone hits, well-executed and dripping with purpose. The rhythm section is undeniable. Drummer Sean Nieves wastes precious few seconds as they pound out no-wave and/or hardcore beats with equal parts fury and precision. Lifelong friend and guitarist Ricky Martyr matches Nieves hit for hit. While some of this will make intuitive sense to hardcore or basement emo initiates based on its velocity and fury, there is also plenty to like for fans of Japanese-style noise rock and/or hyperactive psych. 

This kind of thing will feel familiar to folks who came of age in the late 90's/early 2000's American DIY punk scene, which was then enamored with sass-based noise rockers Les Savy Fav, Arab On Radar, or !!!. The difference is No Babies' obvious adoration and respect for their jazz influences, as well as their dedication to creating a new and more just world from the ashes of this one.