Album Review: Backyard Babies – “Four By Four”
For many people, their first memory of the Backyard Babies would have been around the release of the classic Total 13 album in 1998 (yes, you’re that old). The record was loaded with great songs and was so well loved that they were always going to suffer afterwards with comparisons.
Many would say that the band never lived up to that album. Despite following it up with the great, but already cleaner and more sanitised, Making Enemies Is Good, the band struggled to reach the heights of their career defining LP. After a few more albums, the band went on an indefinite hiatus round about 2009.
But, when they announced last year they’d be recording something new, there was enough goodwill left for the band that excitement levels were high. Apparently we still wanted more, and if they were re-grouping surely they had something to say, something special to give.
Well, turns out that’s not exactly the case. A cursory listen to Four By Four will reveal an accomplished, hooky, rock record. Closer inspection however will leave you with a much more cynical view of the band.
Opener, and lead single Th1rt3en or Nothing is a great song with a nice big chorus, but it’s not rock n roll, and it’s not really very sleazy, and the same is true of the unfortunately titled I’m On My Way To Save Your Rock ‘N’ Roll. Then White Light District comes on, and it’s almost as if the song has been structured to emulate some of the band’s best songs without having that animal energy behind it, like they know the ingredients they just don’t know how to cook them anymore.
Things pick up with Never Finish Anything, which has a little more sense of urgency about it as does Wasted Years, but there’s always that sense that they can do much better.
Then there are the ballads. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with ballads, but Backyard Babies just don’t do them very well, as the dreary Bloody Tears shows. The band try to do something a little different with Walls, a bar-blues romp that seems to morph into a horror movie soundtrack, and they come out of it pretty well, showing a bit more imagination and inspiration. Such inventiveness at the end of the album leaves you wishing they’d put that much effort in to the rest of the record.
Now, bands shouldn’t be written off when they don't sound exactly the same as they did when you first discovered them, and Backyard Babies have every right to do whatever the fuck they like without pandering to what the fans want. As such, the band's polished, un-sleazy, approach on Four By Four could be forgiven if you felt that they were doing their best and doing it from the heart. But there's just too much of a feeling that, with a couple of exceptions, they've thrown this album together with whatever was laying around, then tried to make it sound like classic Backyard Babies. It doesn't though. It sounds like a tribute band.