Album Review: Baby Strange – Want It, Need It

Want It Need It

Released 2nd September 2016

Words: Gary Feeney

baby-strange-want-it-need-itWhen I first wrote about Baby Strange for Popped early last year, I made the grandiose (but entirely justified) claim that their live shows were probably the closest thing you’ll see these days to the likes of the Libertines and the Strokes in their early days, such was the energy and primal thrill of their gigs. Since then, the Glaswegian three-piece have gone from strength-to-strength, releasing a stream of knock-out singles and honing their live performances via extensive touring, adding an ever-increasing musical prowess and know-how to the raw power of their early shows and earning rave reviews and new fans everywhere their schedule takes them.

Having been a fan of the band since around mid-2014 when they first emerged in their hometown, and having lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them since then, it feels like it has taken an age for the debut album to come around; in reality though, it’s been a relatively short apprenticeship for Baby Strange which hasn’t stopped Want It, Need It becoming one of the most long-awaited and hotly anticipated Scottish releases for many years.

Whilst the track-list of Want It, Need It will be familiar to anyone who has been following the band so far – almost all of the songs which appear have been released in some form or another – it’s clear from the opening riff of Pure Evil that Baby Strange haven’t disappointed. A significantly heavier reboot of the early demo which has already attained fan favourite/minor classic status, it’s a blistering start to the album and surely one of the finest openers in recent times: laden with attitude and boasting the first of many anthemic choruses, its perhaps the archetypal Baby Strange song and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album.

From thereon in, Want It, Need It is a packed to the brim celebration of everything great about flat-out, no-nonsense rock’n’roll music, to the extent that the band will have a tough time trying to choose between them for future single releases.

One of the biggest highlights is Pleasure City, a pints-in-the-air anthem that, if there’s any justice in the world, will spark a sea of pyrotechnics at the main stages of every major festival next summer (not that we condone such things here at Popped, of course); it’s a joyous, summer classic in waiting, laced with the kind of communal euphoria elicited by Britpop at its best. Another stand-out is the deliciously dirty VVV, a song which pays further homage to T-Rex (the band share their name from one of Marc Bolan’s many classics, although they’ve claimed this was coincidental) with a glam-rock riff dripped in downright filthy Glaswegian rock’n’roll, a combination which works to thrilling effect. It’s not just a musically murky number either; the lyrics are likely to see the sleeve of Want It, Need It adorned with the infamous “Explicit Content” warning sticker.

For me though, the jewel in the album’s crown is California Sun. A slightly lower tempo number in which darkness and light combine with splashes of Phil Spector’s 60’s pop meeting his latter day adherents like the Jesus & Mary Chain to produce a song which shimmers with a wistful, forlorn beauty. Arguably, it’s the album’s most assured, confident and composed moment, shining serenely amidst the high-octane vibe which otherwise dominates proceedings.

Elsewhere, Distance Yourself, one of the oldest songs on the album, has been given an overhaul and like the others that have been reworked, this new version gives it a new lease of life that you may not have thought it needed, but which is most welcome once you hear it; it’s not that it was tired, as such, but an extra edge to an already great song which is maybe the best showcase of the talents of rhythm section brothers Connaire and Aidan McCann, a pairing which is so integral to Baby Strange’s sound. Aidan’s bass-playing in particular is remarkable, calling to mind the way in which Bruce Foxton’s distinctive style propelled the Jam along; indeed, there’s more than a little bit of the spirit of that band audible across Want It, Need It without as much as a cheap suit or Weller-esque sideburns to be seen.

Bringing the album to a close are Human and the eponymous track, two of the most vicious sounding songs on offer: the former has strong overtones of the Strokes with added attitude in places, whilst the title-track finale is a snarled, frenzied affair and a suitably chaotic ending to an album which is incendiary from start to finish.

Going back to the visceral power which Baby Strange’s live shows have possessed from the outset, it was always going to be a challenge to bring that energy into the studio, but the trio have succeeded spectacularly in doing that and so much more. With not even a single, solitary track which could be fairly be described as filler, Want It, Need It has been well worth the wait and fully deserves to be recognised as one of the great debut albums of recent times.

Listen to Want It, Need It here:

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