Let’s agree, first and foremost, that The Babies is a side-project. Sure, at this point all the members of Vivian Girls have prolific bands outside of their central band, which makes it seem more like a “super group” when they get back together, but when The Babies released their debut self-titled album it seemed like an enjoyable-but-forgettable throwaway before Kevin Morby would return to Woods and Cassie Ramone would hook up with Katy and Fiona again. Incidentally, both bands did release an album in 2011 after The Babies, so that further solidified the idea that this was strictly a side-project/off-shoot/time-killer/whatever-you-call-it. So, it seems rather strange for The Babies to now return less than a year later with an EP titled Cry Along With The Babies, which is really just a collection of six demos with a name and cover slapped on it.
It’s certainly quite striking how under-produced these songs are, but to then immediately dismiss them as under-developed would be a mistake. Each is based around either acoustic or electro-acoustic guitar turned crunchy by low-budget recording. These songs seem to be aiming for a campfire singalong kind of vibe, and on occasion they manage to live up to this idea. This is helped by the simplest of things; the maraca percussion on “Hey Mama,” the vocal trade-offs of “Trouble,” or the swaggering easy-to-learn lyrics of “More Stage.” References to The Velvet Underground also add to the enjoyment for the geeky music fan.
The real star of the show here is undoubtedly Morby, whose voice seems to be perfectly suited to this recording technique. The EP’s final track, “That Boy,” is built much more in the singer-songwriter mold, with Morby divulging his fears and neuroses in quiet tones, then fleshing out frustration through some old-fashioned guitar noodling. “That Boy” seems much more like a solo effort than that of a band, and it solidifies what the rest of the EP suggests: the main creative role in the band has shifted between the release of the album to this. And it’s probably a good thing too; by pulling The Babies in a more Woods-like direction for this release they’re getting closer to a more memorable sound.
Although this may not be the most interesting release you’re going to hear – and the question of whether it was worth releasing at all still weighs on my mind – this is certainly a maturing step for The Babies. If it turns out that this is in fact to be more than a side-project going forward then it will certainly be worth investigating their future output.