Covering a modest 11 tracks clocked in at just more than 22 minutes, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Baby Control’s debut Best War is undoubtedly one of the most honest attempts in recent memory to reclaim the foregone grunge years and brevity of ferocious garage punk. Blatantly acknowledging their Nirvana fandom, this Canadian quartet proudly retain their lo-fi, low-budget approach, which recalls the grit and unabashed flaw of their Seattle idols, especially the early Bleach years with a surprisingly apt cover of “Negative Creep” on their MySpace page.
Not to say the toss-off manner in which they pulled together Best War—recorded in but two days in their “practice space,” lead singer Zoe Verchuylen’s and drummer Chris Vanderlaan’s home basement—merits them any blossoming icon status. But with such a stripped presentation, full of hollowed drum rolls, overloud rattling guitars and haphazardly recorded talk-back, it would be very hard for any small band to match their crude energy.
Even while maneuvering through such a short set, though, the interest kindled by its stand-out title track and “Papa Bear,” a head-humming peak for the album that closes on a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” tribute, significant patches become oddly redundant. For a band that should pride itself on complete lack of pretension, Verchuylen’s lyrics—not that they matter much, since few words can be deciphered above the group’s insistent din—come off, at times, as mere high school diary tripe about boys and crying.
Still, for most of the self-assured indie elite that crowds out tender shoots like Baby Control, Best War is a welcome relief that asks for little more than a brick basement, free beer for the band and a quick listen. The album itself even ends uneventfully with some gentle applause from band members and no overdrawn, dramatic fade. Sure, we music junkies love our heady, all-time favorite bands, but there’s something incredibly refreshing about just listening to your friends fuck around, loud and clenched.
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