Total Babes | Swimming Through Sunlight (Old Flame)

cd total-babesThe final three songs are the highlights of the album; those prior are all good individual tracks, but they do sort of blend when put together.

 

Singer/guitarist Chris Brown and Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerycz just were screwing around in a garage when it became apparent that what they were creating was worthy of being recorded. In fact, this album ended up being recorded in a garage, which is perfect for the Wavves-y lo-fi approach. The album’s artwork is of a cute but messily drawn dinosaur licking an ice cream cone. This goes hand in hand with Total Babes’ sound, tender and sweet with major messiness in the instruments and lyrics dealing with a crumbling relationship.

The opener, “Like They Always Do,” has indeterminable lyrics that fuzz intermingling with the instruments. The clearest and most repeated, “My thoughts just turn to you/ Just like they always do,” can be interpreted as adorable or painful. The rest of Swimming Through Sunlight will prove the latter to be true. “Be So True” has Brown offering his love and commitment to someone who has nothing to offer back. The repetition of “I’ll be so true to you/ But there’s nothing to be true to” makes it hard not to empathize with the lack of real love between the two. The desperation is admirable and pathetic as this dark and catchy song pounds forward with heavy-distant drums, feedback, and power chords. “Rot Away,” much like most of the songs here, has drums that sound like garbage cans being kicked to shit. Also, the band’s omnipresent dirty guitar is paired with a shiny backing guitar riff near the end that adds some light to the heavy.

“Someone to Blame” has Brown sounding more pissed than anything, and “Don’t Have to Run” keeps the album battering ahead with its vivaciousness and confusion. “Give Me Nothing” isn’t a bad song on its own, but at track six it’s almost lost in the mix due to its similarity to the other songs, and lacks certain gusto to make it stand out. “Le Guts” struts punk-rock assurance of feeling fine, and then the denial sets in during the (barely) gentler vocals; it’s sort of a “fuck you/I love you” song.

The final three songs are the highlights of the album; those prior are all good individual tracks, but they do sort of blend when put together. This has its faults, but also benefits by staying true to its fast, fuzzy, lo-fi sound. At the start of “How We Wanna Be,” the guitar immediately brings about feelings of yearning and vulnerability. Of course, the garbage-can drums come in and give that layer of dirtiness to protect the possibly heartfelt lyrics from being fully understood. The clearest line, “Reach right through my skin/ and turn my heart to gelatin,” is spit out earnestly and emotionally. “Without Your Heart” has the quietest clangor of Swimming Through Sunlight. It evokes a breakdown reminiscent of Weezer at their sincerest. Its longing is reminiscent of a breakup that happened at make-out point right before the school dance. It seems one side of the relationship has easily moved on, yet Brown hasn’t. What was once an emotionally satisfying relationship has turned to despair through a messy breakup—messy for him, at least.

These feelings culminate into a truly pretty song that leads into the infectious finale, “Tip of My Tongue.” Immediately, the song sucks you in with the joyful opening guitar followed by a “Woo!” Again, the lyrics aren’t discernible most of the time, but it still makes you feel invincible and able to do anything without fear. This feeling is undercut, like most of the songs on the album, by Brown wishing the aforementioned lover was his, and then he could do anything. But he and the rest of Total Babes have done something: They’ve put together a fast, immediate, and emotionally charged album of dirty drums and guitars, messy and muffled lyrics of desperation and hope, and a bass whose presence is there but barely heard or missed. The track list does occasionally blur together, but each song, alone, has a solid and overall satisfying presence. B+ | Alex Schreiber

RIYL: Wavves, Cloud Nothings, The Ramones

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