Royal Baths, Better Luck Next Life
Black humor and brooding grooves
There’s the bend of slack-keyed guitar, a rumbling bass line, a steady beat on the toms and then it’s “hate at first sight” and “a shrug and a kiss,” in a psychedelic swoon called “Darling Divine.” The track is a proper opener for Royal Baths’ sophomore effort, an album of both black humor and brooding grooves. Jeremy Cox and Jigmaer Baer, the core of the band, have gone from Bay Area garage-kids to Brooklyn-based sulkers. The band’s sound, a bluesy, Velvet Underground-esque snarl, is anchored by leering vocal melodies. Baer’s deadpan baritone and Cox’s disquieting falsetto meet and trade come-ons over throbbing rhythms and shoegaze murk. “I am a black sheep and Jesus knows,” they sing on the chorus to “Black Sheep,” “I have learned to laugh at the black in my soul.” The flirty gloominess of the lyric is typical of their heavily reverbed repartee. However grim the music’s timbre, the Royal Baths capture the mumble and moan of big city troubles without deflating their wit.