George Michael once said of sex, “not everybody does it, but everybody should,” but the same doesn’t necessarily apply to playing rock music. In fact, the exact opposite is true—there are a lot of rock bands in the world, more than anyone could ever desire to hear. A lot of them don’t have talent, a lot of them don’t have new ideas, and many of them just don’t seem to even know what the hell they’re doing. The world doesn’t necessarily need any more rock bands, and I’d posit that the world run out of them in my lifetime. But there’s still a part of me that shies away from discouraging people to start new ones, because for as many forgettable guitar slingers and Stillwater lookalikes may crowd the field, along comes a band like Baby Teeth to renew faith in a long redundant art form.
Chicago’s Baby Teeth aren’t rock in the AC/DC, Stooges or Who sense. They’ve got guitars, certainly, but they give equal weight to their heavenly keyboards and singer Abraham Levitan’s dramatic vocals. Like The Hold Steady with slightly more E.L.O. influence than E Street Band, Baby Teeth are the perfect summer bar band for those with somewhat nerdier tastes than most. And if that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be writing these reviews, now would I?
Baby Teeth’s third album, Hustle Beach, is just that perfect summer rock album, one that kicks off with a muscular, everyman anthem in “Big Schools” before deepening their groove in the strutting, funky “The Part You Play,” a hybrid of recent Spoon and early Elvis Costello. The title track layers the synthesizers on thick, while Levitan channels his glam rock diva for some truly sassy yelps. The group dish out their best lighter-lifting ballad in “I Hope She Won’t Let Me,” and go for synth-heavy new wave bliss on “Shrine.” And though each song presents a different style of sorts, each one ultimately shows off the band’s combination of rock `n’ roll swagger and pop grandeur, a combination that could be embarrassing in the wrong hands but sounds impeccable in the hands of Baby Teeth.
Summer won’t be over for a few more weeks, technically. And summer weather is likely to last a few weeks past the official first day of fall. But as long as Hustle Beach is spinning, the season will last all year long.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.