Baboon – Something Good is Going to Happen to You

2 out of 5

Label: Last Beat

Produced by: John Congleton

By no means a bad album, Baboon’s polished punk outing, Something Good is Going to Happen to You, just has me asking: how much latitude do we give bands before they no longer sound like themselves? …Which is, of course, kind of ridiculous, assuming that, in most situations, it’s mostly the same bandmembers and same songwriters, so some external judgment of “them”ness perhaps doesn’t make sense.

And yet, it happens: we fans, buying up albums and EPs, hit upon that outing that just doesn’t land, and makes us make that statement: it just doesn’t sound like X.

It’s not always about creativity, or trying on a new style; some groups can get away with a wild swing or swerve, because core things are still happening. Whatever those “core” things are are what I’m judging this Baboon album by, as even its snotty rockers – the group’s genre pedigree – feel rather processed. It’s hard to tell for the first few tracks, especially with opener ‘Alright’s big sound taking advantage of producer John Congleton’s evolving style behind the boards and the group’s all-hands-on verve for a simple, fist-pumping singalong, but once we get four tracks in to ‘Evil’ – and maybe there’s already something suspicious here in terms of song names, with all of these lead-ins being particularly generically titled – while technically a good jam, it’s also very poppy, and pretty, and into the chorus, very accessible. None of these qualities are inherently bad; I also have pitched Baboon as the band that should’ve been huge, so I’m not against the cleaning up of their act for the sake of that, except that on the way to making that happen in a studio, it feels like it sucked the life out of the performances – this is the sound of Baboon going through the motions of being anarchic troublemakers. Does it mean something that they took a slight break after this release, then went self-released for the next disc?

The album wears further after this point, dipping even more into Congleton’s sonic enhancements – the organic low-end that he helped to bring out on We Sing and Play, which grounded that disc, is here becoming more “warm” and inviting and limiting – and though we swing back around here and there, every hard-hitting moment is backed up by a edges-smoothed version of the same, e.g. pair King of the Damned Laser Gang’s mirroring of the opening songs callback-type lyrics with the too self-aware kitschy jangle of followup Leave Me Be. Finally, let’s close out on an acoustic track, and be about as stereotypical grungey-rock album as we can be.

While my comment about the “core” being missing is maybe off, given that I’ve seen some live performances of these tracks that rock, that didn’t seem to translate to the way this was recorded. Some singular moments stand out, but when you take in the album as a whole, it feels very much like Baboon doing a covers album of their own songs.