My first encounter with Babel Station was in Manchester at the Peer Hat in February this year. Three guys orbited around a power chord sequence, over which the singer declared, in mock-confession: “me so horny”. Then, through the foliage of amps and cymbals came a fourth member. Wearing a fur ushanka hat, the new member rapped over the remainder of the slacker rock opener, asserting he was going to “tap that pussy like a tambourine.”
Today, I’m in London and I have to receive Babel Station through the neutered medium of the internet. In a coffee shop, on a lunch break, with a heatwave so intense that the English have begun talking about their emotions to avoid talking about the weather. It is here that I listen to Taking It Easy.
Taking It Easy marches in: a wondering ambassador from the desert land of garage rock, proudly unaffiliated with the Neo-Krautrock resurgence and their penchant for jazz noodling over six minutes of nothing. Yes sir, Taking It Easy wears the mark of someone told to get something done within a time frame: a staccato, distorted guitar riff that the management class would understand as workplace fluidity, departmental merger: rhythm and melody together, time saver, money maker. Stab it and make it memorable! Do you know how much these practice rooms cost!
Through subterranean alleys of fizz and personal vendettas comes a voice, to point to the jaggedness of its band and say this is why we sound the way we do. Not I hasten to add, a comment on society. It’s that rare and most sincere of phantoms, unchained, except to itself, my favourite human emotion: bitterness. That which is so unhealthy, unprofessional, and certainly not approved of by Fearne Cotton Ball, dares to take to the stage and do what songs were made for and complain.
Synthesised glitches and alien-keyboard-tomfoolery, à la Viagra Boys pipes up like a crumb seeker under the table as the family bang the tabletop. Tonight this particular unit grapples with the significance of money in the deep sluices of an England that is neither modern nor archaic:
Money didn’t change a thing
You’re still banging on
About who you’re going to be
Whilst I go out and get it for free
Babel Station sound angry but they are not so indecent as to pretend not to enjoy their own vitriol. For fans of Sleaford Mods and I dare say the first Idles record – before they drank the sanctimonious kool aid – Babel Station stand firm in a somewhat overcrowded tent, where six music DJs sit like cattle farmers, deciding who will roam the fields for future episodes of the One Show and who will be ground into mince to be served to felixtarians on the weekend.
Review by Patrick Malone