Review Summary: Swedish sleaze rock veterans show us how they got there
Founded in 1987, the Backyard Babies blend elements of sleazy Motley Crue inspired hard rock with some elements of pop-punk and a little metal edge here and there. They originate from Nassjo in Sweden, and are the inspiration for many modern Swedish sleaze rock bands such as Hardcore Superstar and Gemini Five. Tinnitus is a compilation album of tracks off earlier albums, and is therefore a good way to sample the sound of the band without digging through their whole back catalogue.
The band's sound combines a very raw, punk feel, with a lot of powerchords and gruff, catchy vocals, with some very creative and unique songwriting. Opener Brand New Hate
is an immediate classic, storming straight in with the line "making enemies is good". There's hard, fast punk guitar with some really nice lead guitar drenched in wah which pops up throughout the track, which give the song a lot of energy, up until a slow, groovy bridge that leads into a really nice little solo, and back into the big catchy chorus.
is in very much the same vein, with the harder punk edge coupled with some sleazy lead guitar lines and extremely good vocal hooks. Made Me Madman
, Star War
, Look At You
all follow the blueprint set out in Brand New Hate
, each coupling big, catchy choruses with some fantastic lead guitar lines and bass fills, not to mention loads of energy.
All this fast crazy glam punk is good, but it's when the band slow it down a bit and get more experimental that they're at their best. Colours
is a slower number with a much more melancholic feel, even featuring keyboards courtesy of the album's producer. The pre-chorus regretfully proclaims "good intentions always paved the road to hell", leading into the emotional refrain of "some things are not just black and white". Colours
is one of the albums highlights because it shows the diversity between the slightly cheesy upbeat rock tracks and how much the band can change up their sound and approach without alienating the listener.
is a similar track, though heavier in it's approach, with Nicke sounding much more angry than melancholic. The song takes some interesting twists, with some unusual percussion leading into a another huge wah solo.
Aside from the upbeat glam punk and slower, inventive ballads, the third type of song found on this compilation is a more straight up rock sound, that even dips a little into Nirvana-esque grunge. A Song For The Outcast
is a tale of disenchantment and feeling lost and misplaced, but with the chorus ending with "I won't fade out with you", given it a nice twist of aggression. Minus Celcius
has slower yet driving verses with a hint of a dark ominous sound and into a massive chorus of "minus me, minus you, I think it's all because of, I think it's all because of you". These tracks, although still quality material, are the low point of the album, as the band try to blend their more sombre ballad-esque tracks with the upbeat rock, with the resulting tracks sounding a little schizophrenic.
On to the individual members, and who better to start with than Nicke Borg? Nicke's vocals are outstanding, perfectly blending in with all the styles the band switch between. His voice is gruff and is slightly reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, but with more clarity and authority. He can pull off angry and melancholic equally well, with plenty of flair. There's the odd embarassing lyrical moment, such as "I cannot dance cause my boots are stuck with glue", but what's 80's inspired rock without a good helping of cringeworthy lyrics?
Lead guitar comes courtesy of Dregen, who uses a lot of catchy little blues licks, more often than not with large helpings of wah. Solos are fairly frequent, though often short and flashy, and therefore lacking a little in substance. Overall, Dregen does his part to make each and every song that little bit more memorable and catchy, though it would have been nice to see that Swedish musicianship shining through a bit more.
Johan Blomqvist is the bassist, and there's not all that much to say about him. He does add some nice, creative punk fills here and there, but more often than not he sticks to the root note. Rounding out the rythm section is Peder Carlsson, who often keeps things simple, but inserts a lot of fast, crazy fills to keep it interesting. Although both fully capable, the rythm section aren't anything special.
And that's where the major flaw of the album comes in; it's nothing really special. You've heard a lot of this stuff before, probably done better. There's no really bad songs on here, and only a few truly brilliant ones. The Backyard Babies are at their best when they're more downbeat and low tempo, as their experimenting in songs such as Colours
makes for some interesting, though not flawless, listening.
Vocal hooks and catchy punk riffs are everywhere on this album, but not really anything unique or new. This is Motley Crue crossed with early Green Day, which in itself is good if you like nice and fast sleazy rock 'n' roll, but bands like The Wildhearts (whose frontman, Ginger, incidentally had a hand in writing a fair few of the songs on here) and Bullets and Octane do this better. If you want some nice, crazy catchy rock to have a bit of a headbang to, this is perfect, but if you're after something deeper then look away. The more inventive songwriting and brilliant hooks make this an above average album, but it's nothing spectacular.
Recommended tracks -
Brand New Hate