As somebody who grew up in the Dallas/Forth Worth area of Texas, the rock band Baboon is like an old friend that has always been there for me. My introduction to the band came during my college radio days, where we were obsessed with their debut LP, Face Down In Turpentine. Jam-packed with catchy punk choruses, blazing guitars, screaming vocals even a bit of earsplitting trombone, they were without a doubt one-of-a-kind. With boundless energy and an indescribable sound, somehow they have always stayed under, and at times off, the radar of music fans outside Texas. After fifteen years of rocking the pants off Dallas, I think it is time for Baboon to get the recognition they deserve. With their fourth studio LP, simply titled Baboon, it looks like that time is now.
Although their lineup has changed up a bit over the past fifteen years, founders Andrew Huffstetler (vocals, trombone) and Mike Rudnicki (guitar) are still at it, making the bombastic rock that sucked me in so long ago. While their previous albums had more to do with noisy rock in the vein of Fugazi, their new direction has gone in a much more accessible direction. The balls to the wall power of their music still exists, they are now exploring their pop side a bit more. It has always been there, just buried under a wall of noise until now.
From the very start of their new album, it is apparent that Baboon has made what could very well be their defining album. “Airplane” begins with sunny guitars and handclaps, leading to a chorus that still has a bit of the oomph that I expect from them, just in a much more subtle way. In fact, I kinda of dig the more restrained noise, such as holding it back until the pounding of drums on the chorus of “Breaking Glass.”
Baboon no longer hides from their softer side, giving us what could very well be a future hit in the making with the infectious “Saturday.” There are actually several tracks throughout the album that could easily be solid radio tracks if they got in the hands of the right people. Another one is “Arms Around The World,” one of the lightest songs in the band’s history. Acoustic guitars take center stage, as Huffstetler’s voice is supported by a sea of vocal harmonies. It is a rather impressive moment for a band that was a member of what locals referred to as the Fraternity Of Noise.
Ah, but that beast of noisy brilliance does still exist, which rears its mighty head on my favorite song on the album, “Into The Sea.” Huge damn guitars, a stomping drum beat and Huffstetler’s patented wailing vocals make this a Baboon classic. Although it isn’t quite as abrasive as their past rockers, it made this longtime fan very happy. You can’t help but throw a fist up in the air as he yells “I’m ready to dive… into the sea!”
I could go on about this great album, but I’d rather leave a few surprises for those of you out there who might give Baboon a chance. From the Beach Boys harmonies on “Circles” to the soaring guitars of “The Light Of The Lightning Strike,” this staple of the North Texas music scene has proven that bands can totally continue to improve with age. In fact, they may be even more relevant now than ever. I highly encourage our record label friends to give Baboon a listen. It would be a damn shame for them to remain unsigned for too long.