The Blake Babies
God Bless the Blake Babies
Did hell freeze over? The reunion of The Blake Babies has to be one of the most unexpected in music history, as tales had it that the two camps (Juliana Hatfield on one side, Antenna bandmates John Strohm and Freda Love Smith on the other) were quite bitter toward each other following their 1990 split. And though the band had something of a •legendary• status thanks to years as college-rock darlings, they certainly never acheived even the modest commercial success that Hatfield had as a solo artist (or as a member of other bands, including The Lemonheads and her own Juliana Hatfield Three). So, why reunite at all? Well, aside from the cynical notion that Hatfield•s solo stardom has (unjustly) dwindled of late, it•s clear that the group still has something to say, if their comeback album, God Bless the Blake Babies, is any indication.
A strong collection of 12 songs, God Bless revives the Babies• trademark jangly pop so perfectly, it•s hard to believe they took a decade off. The best tracks find Hatfield and Strohm writing together, resulting in such memorable songs as the catchy (yet subtly dark) •Disappear,• the piano-and-guitar-driven •Until I Almost Died,• and the buzzing , climactic •On.• That•s not to say they•re the only strong points, but there•s definitely a certain magic to those collaborations.
Other highlights include the pretty, slightly twangy •Waiting For Heaven• (which finds Hatfield harmonizing with her former Lemonheads bandmate, Evan Dando), the similarly-twangy •What Did I Do,• and the Dando/Ben Lee-penned •Brain Damage• (which finds Dando and Hatfield again duetting on a song that seems disturbingly confessional, given Dando•s well-publicized drug problems). And while Hatfield sings lead on most tracks, Strohm gets time in the spotlight with the angular yet lush •Picture Perfect• and the rawly pretty •Invisible World,• and Smith gets a moment with her-self-(co)penned, moodily romantic, •When I See His Face.•
In short, it•s a pretty, quiet return to form for this band, sure to appeal to anyone who likes their older stuff (or any of Hatfield•s various projects), the whole jangly Gram Parsons/Byrds school of music, or just a good melody and catchy harmonies. God Bless the Blake Babies, indeed, and let•s hope they•re in it for a longer haul this time •round.