BACKYARD BABIES – Four By Four

Backyard Babies - 4 by 4Back in the early to mid 90’s, Sundays at midnight was sacred hours for me – and many, many more lovers of hard rock and metal. Because Sundays at midnight was Headbanger’s Ball time and that was not be missed. I clearly remember one night back in 1994 when the V.J., the awesome Vanessa Warwick introduced us to a new Swedish band called Backyard Babies. Now, I’m Swedish and a music nerd, but I had never ever heard of that band. Now, it must be stated that back in the 80’s / 90’s, we Swedes weren’t spoiled with hard rock bands getting international features on rock shows and such, so no matter what your musical tastes were like, it was always cool that a Swedish band getting exposure. Sure, videos by Swedish bands was on Headbanger’s Ball every now and then, but it was always so cool when a Swedish band got to be interviewed and they got more air than just a video here and there. That was my first impression with Backyard Babies. That band had just released their debut album Diesel And Power and the video for their debut single “Electric Suzy” was on pretty frequently. Now, I have never been into punk and even though Backyard Babies mixed their punk with both sleaze and glam, I had a really hard time getting into the tune. So you might have guessed now that I wasn’t a fan to begin with. Actually, it would take me quite a while to get into Backyard Babies – to this day, they are far from being my favourite band, so to speak. Backyard Babies’ real breakthrough came four years later with their second record Total 13, an album that is seen by many as their finest moment, however I beg to differ. It might have something to do with the fact that that record’s musical style is way to punky and noisy for my taste and to be honest, I couldn’t remember one song on that record no matter how hard I tried. The first time I found something that I liked about this band was when they released their third album Making Enemies Is Good in 2001, an uneven product, but I really liked the pop vibe that made many songs – especially the Ginger (The Wildhearts) co-write single “Brand New Hate” – had. Next album, called Stockholm Syndrome (2003) was even more to my liking as the sound was more easy listening and catchy. People Like People Like People Like Us (2006) was a dip in quality and for the first time the band sounded tired and jaded and their hard-living lifestyle seemed to had taken its toll on the guys. Still not a big fan, the band’s next release, Backyard Babies (2008) – and their last for seven years – was just a shrug of the shoulder for me, I didn’t care. Then I listened to the record – and was totally floored. For the first time ever, Backyard Babies had knocked me out completely. Everything was there, the sound, the songs, the attitude – but of course, when I finally had caved in for the band, they decided to go on a seven-year long hiatus. During that time singer and guitarist Nicke Borg started his own project Homeland, a pop project with influences from everything from country to soft rock, guitarist and singer Dregen released a solo album and wrote his biography and Johan Blomquist (bass) and Peder Carlsson (drums) simply stopped playing.

After seven years of doing no Backyard Babies at all, it was time for the members to get down to business and stir shit up again. But older and wiser from what burned the band out the last time, it’s a sober and healthy Backyard Babies that will go on tour to support their new record – and for the first time in my life, I’m excited to hear what the guys might have come up with, with their last album fresh in memory. My expectations didn’t get any lower by the fact that their new single “Thirteen Or Nothing” turned out to be a real killer. It’s a groovy sleaze rocker, catchy as a STD, with both pop and punk vibes, complete with cowbell – it really swings like a motherfucker, pardon my French! In their most humble ways, they claim: “I’m On My Way To Save Your Rock N’ Roll” and I’ll be damned if I don’t believe them – they sound convincing, to say the least. The song is pop, punk, glam and sleaze in the finest mix with hooks from Hell! The raunchy and raw sleaze-rocker “White Light District” surprise us with cool Led Zeppelin-like breaks among the messy catchieness of the song – awesome! “Bloody Tears” is for all of you who has doubts that power ballads and Backyard Babies don’t match. Because, “Bloody Tears” is every inch a power ballad, the kind that would have shipped this record quadruple platinum had it been written in 1991. Backyard Babies show us that they are very competent in writing such a song in 2015 and make it a damn good one. “Piracy” is brilliant, a pop influenced hard rocker, uptempo with very catchy melodies in both verses and refrain. “Never Finish Anything” is a striking in-your-face pop-metal groover that couldn’t be more sticky in a bucket of glue, “Mirrors (Shall Be Broken)” is a brilliant pop song that sometimes leans over to the ballad side – a commercial pop-rocker in other words and “Wasted Years” is a classic Backyard Babies ass-kicker that could have been of their last self-titled album or Stockholm Syndrome – glorious stuff! They end the record with a real sore thumb, a kind of song I have never heard from this lot before. “Walls” is a bluesy and jazzy early 70’s Alice Cooper influenced slow number with a rock arrangement – Wow! Towards the end it rocks up a bit and I can hear as diverse influences as Alice Cooper, King Diamond and even bits that reminds me of slow, dark and melodic black metal – Lord only knows if all this is intentional or just me. Another thing is that the song is over 7 minutes long. I truly love it, but how on Earth did that happen? I bet no one saw that coming.

I’m really stunned by this album – this is what I call a comeback. In many ways Backyard Babies has kept the essence of what the band is all about, but developed into a more hard rocking band, more melodic, but still with all the aggression and attitude that the punk once brought them. But I guess their more melodic side might not be for everyone. If you think that Backyard Babies went on a downward spiral after Total 13, then this is not for you – in fact, this record has the most in common with their self-titled 2008 album than anything else they have done. I don’t know about you, but I really love it when I hear a band that constantly moving forward and that “matured” mean that they’re not afraid to take chances and developing their sound without losing their identity. Backyard Babies has with this album done just that, just as they did with their self-titled record. Backyard Babies used to be my favourite album by the band – by far – but dammit if this one isn’t one step better. Also, the fact that this record only contains nine tracks says that they have only picked the killer tracks and left out all the fillers, a trick more bands should try. There is no reason at all for putting 15 songs on a CD just because you can – quality over quantity. Backyard Babies 2015 – more melodic, more pop, more catchy, but still sleazy, raw, dirty, trashy and mean. I’d buy this one if I was you!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Th1rt3en Or Nothing
2. I’m On My Way To Save Your Rock N’ Roll
3. White Light District
4. Bloody Tears
5. Piracy
6. Never Finish Anything
7. Mirrors (Shall Be Broken)
8. Wasted Years
9.Walls