The Babies, Our House On The Hill
Youth, struggle and isolation that goes beyond the Brooklyn bubble
Only in the hyper-insular Brooklyn scene and its attendant fantasy-rock blogosphere could the Babies be considered a “supergroup.” The band was formed by Vivian Girls singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone and Woods bassist Kevin Morby, whose combined star wattage make the New Pornographers look like the Damn Yankees. Their second album, Our House On The Hill, however, feel bigger than the Brooklyn bubble: These are songs about youth and struggle and isolation, concepts that would seem to garner little sympathy in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, but take on outsized significance wherever the remaining Duckies of the world live and fight in the decades after twee-pop and zines.
With a tempo-swerving electric-guitar strum worthy of the Wedding Present and a cocky desperation inherited from Comet Gain, Morby spends opening track “Alligator” detailing exactly how to short-arm life: no job, no girlfriend and no prospects. Morby reaches his peak of self-loathing in “Mess Me Around,” cursing himself out, and the acoustic “That Boy” works through heartache. Morby neither mumbles nor whines his way through these numbers; his voice is front and center, confidently baring feelings. Ramone sings lead on about a quarter of the tracks, and her style is more patented – a Warholian flattening of the ’60s girl-group genre that seems effortless and well-aligned with her work in Vivian Girls. Our House On The Hill belongs to Morby, however, and his acoustic, fingerpicked “Mean” makes plain the no-glibness, no-irony intentions of the Babies when he softly sings, “You’re mean, mean, mean, mean/ And it’s hurting my feelings.” Call it artless, or jam your fists deeper into your pockets and walk on with this album at your back.