Baboon – We Sing and Play

5 out of 5

Label: self-released

Produced by: John Congleton

Across their various albums and EPs, Baboon have shown that they can do punk, they can do noise, they can do pop, they can be weird; on We Sing and Play, they prove to be able to do it all on one album, and released from the confines of a label, do it more cohesively and strongly than before.

This was the group’s first outing with producer John Congleton, who would join them on two subsequent albums, and there’s something about this recording which captures a rawness lacking on those followups: John doesn’t over-gloss or bury any of the many elements at play here, allowing Baboon to achieve a fully fleshed out sound, whether that’s for raucous opener Rise, the glammy Lushlife, or more emotional tracks such as Angels and the cavernous Endlessly, also providing room to swing back into verociousness as needed, such as when Closer explodes during its choruses. The group also remains rather focused and sober throughout – the humor of some previous recordings has always been welcomed, but there’s a sincerity and power on We Sing and Play’s tracks that draws into question (yet again) why these guys weren’t superstars.

Splitting from label Wind-Up, the back of the self-released We Sing and Play boasts “No label affiliation here, just rock band.” This can be read in the smart-alecky tone of their previous albums, but it’s also, possibly, just a statement: the simplified song titles; the clean artwork; the precise and passionate song-writing – yeah, there’s catchy pop and hardcore screeches and quirk on these 6 tracks, but they all uniformly rock, led by great hooks, a fantastically varied vocal performance, and rich production.