Friday, May 3, 2013


Friday  MAY 3, 2013

2823 2nd Street Northwest
Albuquerque , NM
doors 8pm

No, I’m not going there. Sad Baby Wolf has garnered a lot of ink because two of its members were in the most successful band to come out of the ‘burque but this doesn’t mean they should be forever defined by that.

And yet, Sad Baby Wolf’s premiere LP Electric Sounds does remind me of guitarists Marty Crandall’s and Neal Langford’s earlier band, one that garnered acclaim and made its mark on the scene. Okay. I’ll say it once and once only. Flake. Flake had many of the pop sensibilities of that… other.. band but also was a product of its time.

Also known as Flake Music -- depending on whether one heard them in 1993 or 1997 -- Flake dispensed with the trashy punk aesthetic of local contemporaries like Scared of Chaka and helped usher in what we then called emo. In those days emo didn’t mean your sad bastard whining or the über-sensitive suicide fodder of your Elliot Smiths. We used it (somewhat disparagingly I’ll admit) to denote a musical style more than a subject matter. Lots of minor chords, turn-on-a-dime changes from soft to loud and back again and emotive vocals that were not snarled à la The Drags but could be every bit as biting. On the national stage, bands like Samiam and Discount brought emo wide recognition although its fans took offense at that label. By 2000, the “punk” revival was dead and emo --or whatever you want to call it -- was the predominant form, barely edging out math rock . Many of us had had enough and local glam aficionado Zed Stardust famously threatened to publicly hang himself from the decrepit heater hanging over the Golden West stage if yet another touring emo band showed up.  

Still, there were a few local outfits that did justice to the form. For my money, Pilot To Bombardier was at the top of that heap. Consider this a cheap foreshadowing trick of a cheaper journalist but its noteworthy that Sad Baby Wolf’s bassist Sean McCullough was their guitar slinger. McCullough was armed with an heroic array of pedals, the most I’d ever seen (a feature he later brought with him to The Oktober People). Concurrently , third Sad Baby Wolf guitarist Jason Ward was rocking local stages with with Starsky’s workingman’s-core indie rock.

So here we are a decade and half on and Sad Baby Wolf is cited as being influenced by everyone from  Arcade Fire to Promise Ring when in fact they’ve been in on the deal from the get go. My memory of those days is a bit dim but there were shared stages and bills between any number of bands boasting Crandall, Ward, McCullough and Langford. A bit later, drummer Maury Crandall made his mark with his wife Connie in the fine and powerful pop of Giranimals who are sorely missed but are valiantly raising a brood of Cowsill-like musically knowledgeable kids.

Competing some sort of circle, Sad Baby Wolf is hosting their official Electric Sounds release show at Low Spirits,  owned by Starsky-alum Joe Anderson. Featuring Marty’s and Neal’s vocals, this limited pressing of 300 records (with free download) is not stuck in the past by any means but moves forward with a bit of swirl, a bit of jangle, a bit of pop and a bit of soaring emo when that word meant more than it does now. Capably engineered by McCullough, I hear in it snatches of Pavement and even Pete Townshend but especially  “old” emo’s hallmark: intricate and deliberate progressions, here backed with Maury’s pop-styled drums. And if you think there’s no such thing as pop drums you haven’t been listening. Pay attention to his beats and you’ll see.

No one escapes their past I suppose. But I see no reason to focus on only one past accomplishment when this band has a collective body of work of which to be quite proud. From this point on I hope that Sad Baby Wolf’s worth is measured by their considerable prowess and not by past laurels. If we can do that locally, it can be done in the national press as well.

 Not to dwell on the past but supporting act Edith is particularly intriguing based on  its members’ histories. It is fronted by one of our  most able and earnest songwriters Billy Belmont (Bellemah,  The Bellmont). In a recent five-way Facebook message fest,  he described the band  as “Melodic doom drone rock, A little southerny at times.” Singer/guitar player Ella Brown ( Mother Death Queen, I Is For Ida, Unit 7 Drain) claims “We are Black Maria's illegitimate and unloved step child. The kind of music a shipping dock would make, if it made music.” Bassist Joshua Williams (St. Petersburg, Mindy Set, Mei Long) and drummer Ben Levine ( Lousy Robot, 2bers, A Very Special Lie) kept mostly quiet as Billy and Ella exchanged quips and pointed little love barbs.

No comments:

Post a Comment