Babe the Blue Ox
The Way We Were
I had intended on marrying Babe bassist/vocalist Rosalee Thomson — she being from Minneapolis and my mom being from Minneapolis and all — but she just couldn’t quite commit. That, and the fact that I never actually did propose. Instead, like a geek, I’d stand in the middle of the Cow Haus “dance floor” and stare and marvel at the work of her band. Our love held up well enough from a distance.
A slightly funkier, less quirky version of Glass Eye, Babe the Blue Ox play power pop the way it ought to be played: with a lot of bottom to complement all that sweet melody. But after three indie releases on Homestead Records, they signed a major-label deal with RCA and promptly softened their sound on their debut release in 1996, People. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to the new style, but on The Way We Were, the major-label Babe definitely have some charm — even if bassist Rose Thomson and drummer Hanna Fox surrender most of the singing chores to Tim Thomas. Thomas definitely has a way about him, sometimes speaking in a snarl instead of pure singing while chugging along Thomson and Fox’s P-Funkworthy rhythm section.
The album reaches a majestic peak on “T.G.I.F.U.,” a dig on restaurant chains, which shows Babe hitting on all levels: those funky bass and drums kicking in while Thomas, instead of finding on Route 66, realizes: “Every city I got lost in, Charlotte, Boston, even Austin/ Has a four-lane boulevard with the same damn grill and bar/ Every meal will be familiar/Rest assured… ” Then a jangling guitar and lush harmony kick in as everyone chants, “And when you take that long drive/ How nice when you arrive/ To find the same signs.”
But Babe never seem content with one guitar piece, and the song kicks back into a syncopated romp that is their trademark. Thomson gets her shining moment on “Monday After,” with her cooing, “Here’s to the miracle of your lips… ” I wish I could recite the rest of the lyrics, but I keep swooning after that opening phrase.
Maybe a little more lush than funky, Babe the Blue Ox haven’t lost anything, but made allowable tweaks on their sound. They’re still heavy, just a sweeter beast.