EP Review: Baby Strange – Extended Play

Extended Play

Released 14th July 2017

Words: Gary Feeney

Given that Baby Strange’s debut album was only released in September last year and that they had a number of live dates in the following months, the announcement of a brand new single, Motormind, and a 6 track E.P. earlier in the year came as a bit of a surprise.

Another few singles followed and from those it was clear that the band had progressed significantly since Want It, Need It – both musically and lyrically, there was a different feel to the new songs, with a tangible sense of frustration touching on fury fuelling the quartet’s trademark energy compared to the more ebullient nature of the album.

The aforementioned Motormind gets proceedings off to a flier with a searing guitar line and the tight drums and bass of Connaire and Aidan McCann providing the base for an impassioned vocal from Johnny Madden delivering lyrics which are an ode to pent-up energy stifled by boredom – an anthem for doomed youth, if you will.

If Motormind is defined by frustration with personal circumstances, then No Coin to Play is driven by the resulting anger, directed at the world in general. Probably Baby Strange’s heaviest song to date and certainly their most political, it’s a blistering burst of punk rock, taking aim in particular at a certain beleaguered Prime Minister with the lyrics “more lies today spoon-fed by Mrs May, did we ever have a chance?”. For a band that specialise in big choruses, this one’s a monster even by their own standards.

Completing the trio of heavy-duty anthems is Play Me, a frenzied, chaotic rush which lampoons a bull-shitting A&R man before cheerfully informing him that “we are not your friends”. Featuring Slaves’ Laurie Vincent (listen out for him on the “Glasgow is so hot right now” line and at the very end), it’s a playful track but packs no less a punch for that, as evidenced by a riotous rendition at the recent Baby Strange & Slaves show in Glasgow’s ABC2. It’s not one for the faint-hearted.

The other “half” of Extended Play, for want of a better term, continues the same lyrical themes, but where the aforementioned trio are delivered with an obvious and immediate fury, the others are a distinct musical departure for the band.

Bring Me Down, which takes things down a notch after the frenetic Motormind/No Coin to Play opening doublet, is a shuffling, almost poppy number, juxtaposing a catchy tune with disquieting lyrics before leaping into the choruses which intone “I wanna hurt somebody, I wanna hurt somebody” . It’s a song of contradictions, menacing and yet with a breezy chorus that defies the lyrical content making it the kind of song that sounds different every time you listen to it.

If you were to take the lyrics Extended Play as a continuous story, then Young Team be the first chapter. Opening with an ominous, grungy reggae beat and a terse guitar line, Madden sings of a teenager who was drawn into gang life (at which point it may be helpful, for readers outside Scotland, to mention that gangs of teenage miscreants tend to be known as the “young team”…), searching for a way out. The verses are dark and desperate, but the choruses are quintessential Baby Strange – loud, full on and anthemic, by the time it the song reaches the first one you’re already entertaining the notion that maybe, just maybe, it’s Baby Strange’s best work to date.

Bringing the curtain down is Mess, a stripped-down, introspective affair which starts off with plaintive lyrics over a single electric guitar before launching into a swirling, soaring crescendo towards the end. I’m not sure why exactly, but there’s something about the song that puts me in the mind of Want It, Need It’s California Sun – there’s a similar beauty to its rawness, a genuinely tenderness allied with the band’s customary power that makes it a perfect closing track.

Although as I mentioned earlier, the preview singles hinted at a change in Baby Strange’s sound, they don’t quite prepare you for just how seismic the shift is over the full release. The lyrics have an incredible depth, ranging from darkness to despair to optimism, and tell a story in six parts whilst musically there’s been a huge leap forward from the sound which has established the band as arguably the finest rock’n’roll band on the scene. An absolute pleasure from the first note to the last.

Listen to Extended Play here:


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