Review Summary: The wheels on the bus go...
Well, Baroness, it's been a hell of a ride. I'm not just talking about the time you careened off of a viaduct in a bus, although that's clearly a pretty big part of the narrative here. John's (just thought I'd take the lead on the first-name basis thing) detailed account of the accident that he posted in its aftermath was harrowing, but oddly uplifting. The courage displayed in his determination to get Baroness back together and back on that bus remains particularly inspiring.
This next bit sucks to say, but I have to admit that you lost me there, guys (not girl(you weren't involved yet)). Purple
wasn't what I was hoping for, and consequentially the fickle fan in me began to see you as that band I remember liking a whole lot more before their expensive recording equipment was crushed- unfortunately alongside their profitably dexterous bodies- in what my mind's eye pictures as a floral VW Van rolling through Bath, Baizley's grizzled and grinning head poking out of the passenger seat window, lolling tongue being whipped around by the breeze, the whole band blissfully unaware of the tragedy that's about to unfold.
Potentially inappropriate levity aside, the production has been a significant source of contention for long-time fans of the band, and as a result pre-listening worry and post-listening complaint has permeated the first wave of discourse surrounding Gold & Grey
's release. Dave Fridmann's name is getting tossed around like a Disney star at a Weinstein party, with a similarly callous disregard for his feelings. A big drop in user-ratings and their resultant average scores across various websites seem to suggest that this album isn't being given a chance by a large number of what appear to be ex-Baroness fans, and I think that people are calling this one wrong.
Gold and Grey
doesn't suck at all. Your first listen(s) might sound disjointed, and the production will disappoint you if Purple
's style ain't your thing. After your initial and inevitable fixation on these problems, try your best to just let them the fu
ck go and dive on in again. For those of you that somehow don't get it yet, this album shares a rather overwhelming resemblance to my very own cock and its manifold forms. It's a grower.
In Gold and Grey
, we've been presented with an album that feels like the logical progression from Yellow & Green
that we all wished for Purple
to be, but we're all too mad to realise it. Remember that band that you really enjoyed on First
with the quirky, off-kilter sludgy riffs？They're still here. Remember the band that did that same thing even better while flirting with progressive tendencies and suddenly seeming virtousic in the quality of their interplay and-tie my limbs to a quartet of stallions, do I hear bluegrass!？
- on Red
？They're still here. Remember the band that kinda disappointed you with Yellow & Green
but then a few more spins proved to you that their experiments in more subtle psychedelic effects and textures and some pop sensibilities actually reaped some serious rewards？They're definitely still here, still sans harsh vocals, of course.
“Well what have they actually progressed in, then, you offensive, patronising cu
nt of a reviewer？”
ck you too, pal. John Baizley's yelling is more tuneful than ever, and actually genuinely emotionally inflicting in his performances on I'd Do Anything
and Pale Sun
. The psychedelia is fu
cking rife. There is some fresh experimentation within both the transitional tracks and the rock bangers. Seemingly throwaway experiments in meter actually pay some long-term rewards in some grooves that stick with you in songs like Tourniquet
. There is playful yet heavy virtuosity in the likes of Seasons
' guitar-led bridge, and also holy shi
is actually not just a gimmick song with a blast-beat, it's a truly noteworthy example of experimentation being introduced alongside some seriously competent song-writing abilities. Gina Gleason plays guitar well and sings just like the other dude did, close harmonies and all, but with a couple more tricks up her sleeve, pinning a shiny 'Female Vocals' badge onto Baroness's cluttered Boy Scout sash. Nick Jost stitches together some insanely cool basslines on tracks like Borderlines
and I'm Already Gone
. Sebastian Thomson seems to genuinely enjoy fu
cking pummeling his kit with Grohl-brand aggression, with the added quality of being able to lock into some seriously fun rhythms with has bass-playing affiliate in the rhythm section, although- it must be said- the drum-sound is truly horrendous in parts. Finally, and to reiterate, there's Seasons
ck me, what a song.
You surely mustn't have expected that the production would be crisp and natural. It's not- and it's not great from a traditional production perspective- but many of the more creative production techniques utilised pay large dividends in somehow connecting this seemingly disparate, otherworldly version of Baroness into one cohesive hour's worth of a band delivering honest-to-God progression by the metric shi
tload to an audience that seems to be too distracted by the colour of the walls to actually pay much attention to the music itself.
Now that we've reached this weird, self-perpetuating impasse wherein variations of the word 'disappointment' are being lazily thrown around in all sorts of forums in relation to Gold & Grey
, it seems important to me that anyone who's ever been a fan of Baroness should have a handful of attempts at listening to this album, because I guarantee you that at least a few moments on here are going to stick with you as some of the best of their career, even if you have to battle through some poor production, bland lyrics, and a couple of throwaway songs on your way to this realisation
May the road rise up to meet you, Baroness, albeit a bit more gently than before. I hope your fans- past and present- treat you with the respect that you have earned many times over. Keep doing things your own way.
With sincere love,