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Nutshell Album Review: Baby Kid – Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson (Download Link)

coverSo despite the fun/stress/business that goes into the first week or so of being a college student, I’ve decided to continue to take time out of my day to ramble aimlessly and endlessly about music. The reason is two fold. Fold one: I’m a music major, so isn’t this studying? Fold two: HA. STUDYING. But since my mom reads this, I’m sort of obligated to say I’m hitting the books. I even went to the library today (no joke)!

The strange thing is the first thing I’m doing for this site as a college student is reviewing an album by a local band from back home that I became quite fond of over the years. Their name is Baby Kid (named creatively after a kid that went to high school with the band that looked an uncanny amount like a baby), and their blend of noise rock and a lot of reverb has rocked too many house shows and parking garage roof shows (see the second paragraph) to count. Having the pleasure to play many shows with the trio, made up of Peter Gajewski, Gus Dieter, and Jeremy Walleck, their unparalleled goofiness goes hand-in-hand with the raw awesomeness of their songs, including this singles collection and even a “party mix”. And now we have an album to talk about.

Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson starts off with lead single “Bein’ a Big D∞Bag to the Away High School Chess Team at Regional Competition”, one of the all-star song titles of the album. The track starts off with a wall of feedback noise before busting in and out of powerful hooks and quiet interludes backed by ripping screams and soft vocals, respectively. Up next is “Your Friend Who Eats Bugs”, with a chord-based opening riff and solid harmonizing of vocals packed between instrumental refrains. The song ends with an intoxicating and pretty freakin’ awesome instrumental outro. “Dominatrix Under the Glasses Store”, which was another single on the album that has a pretty great music video, is one of the most attractive songs on this record. I may even go so far to say this is one of my favorite songs the group has ever written. It’s one of the most impressive uses of dynamics I’ve heard in all of music and it features yet another awesome instrumental outro complete with some audio samples built in near the end. Definitely one to check out.

The next song is “Gas’line Lettuce Tomato”, with an intro that sounds like it is pulled right out of a Pixies album. It starts off super dreamy and…well…trippy before breaking into a short-lived explosion of distortion and cymbals. The progression then repeats, turning into another one of the album’s highlights. “Toni Kukoč Slow Motion Fadeaway” is what follows, and it is very reminiscent of the band’s early garage rock sound while still injecting fresh-sounding melodies and riffs. “My Plans to Fall Asleep” is put together a lot like a Sonic Youth track, with quick transitions between fast-paced riffs and slower, more drawn out breaks. It even features Dieter providing a Thurston Moore-like, reverb-soaked vocal performance. “$4.00 Lottery Ticket, ’13” is another song on the album that is very garagey, with fast chord strummings, screams from Gajewski, and an almost-hectic drum beat. There’s also a fun surprise in the middle, with the sound shifting to a much more relaxed feel, at some points even seeming calm enough to be an isolated vocal track. “Thumblr Famous Dave” comes up next, and it opens with an audio sample of none other than Moe from “The Simpsons” before breaking into a song that can’t be described much further than a solid rock song. It has a very attractive chord progression, and it is nicely driven by the rhythm section and small inserted riffs throughout. “Serif Like Times New Roman” is the longest track of the album (ending on the 7-minute mark), and it feels as close to a “Baby Kid” medley as you’ll ever get. It features all of the aspects of their music that you could ever pinpoint. Whether it be the quiet, toned-down vocal breaks, the quick and riff-driven jam-session like grooves, the extended build-ups, or anything else, this song has got it. It even manages to bring in a synth lead in the middle section where Gajewski hypnotizes you with the repetition of the line “I don’t feel a thing”.

“÷” starts off the tail end, and heavily electronic end, of the album, with a minute-long instrumental featuring audio takes of the band just having a good time. “Kevin James Gave My Dad an iPod Once”, my favorite of this album’s song titles, is all synths and drum machines packed underneath Dieter’s vocals about being an alien. “Freedom Fries” also follows the same musical style, except with vocals that are entirely in French. The album is then closed with “Wesołych Świąt, Guy on the Football Team!” a 90 second song chock-full of saw-leads and high hats, and the eponymous “Baby Kid”, an evolving-synth-riddled backdrop to drummer Walleck’s only…ahem…”vocal performance” (billed as “The J-Man”) which constitutes him reading a letter to his mother, only to point out every word that could somehow be related to erections.

It’s been a while since I reviewed a full album like this one. Part of it is because EPs take less work and concerts are a lot of fun, but a large factor is also that there hasn’t been a lot of music that’s recently grasped my attention. I don’t know if it was my unbiased love of Baby Kid, or my much-more-biased love of the part of my musical career that they took part in, but something pulled me into reviewing this album. This record is a coffeehouse dweller’s dream, and it also attracted the attention of the football players down the hall from my dorm at a Big 10 university. This says a lot, mainly that they must be doing something pretty special. And guess what! You can scoop up all the specialness for free (and legally!) here, and find their Facebook page here.

Oh and the whole rating thing? This low-fi masterpiece snags a 92/100. Handshakes all around.

Bruce Malmsteen Reverend Johnson Tracklisting:

  1. Bein’ a Big D∞Bag to the Away High School Chess Team at Regional Competition
  2. Your Friend Who Eats Bugs
  3. Dominatrix Under the Glasses Store
  4. Gas’line Lettuce Tomato
  5. Toni Kukoč Slow Motion Fadeaway
  6. My Plans to Fall Asleep
  7. $4.00 Lottery Ticket, ’13
  8. Thumblr Famous Dave
  9. Serif Like Times New Roman
  10. ÷
  11. Kevin James Gave My Dad an iPod Once
  12. Freedom Fries
  13. Wesołych Świąt, Guy on the Football Team!
  14. Baby Kid
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