Don Babylon – Foul
If you love straight rock music, no chaser or pretense, Don Babylon is right up your alley. Originally based out of Richmond, Virginia, the trio earned a lot of praise for their debut collection Babe and played a bevy of live dates on the back of that first release, but their second collection Foul digs deeper than anything you’ll hear on Babe. Lead singer and guitarist Aubrey Neeley, bassist and second vocalist Leland Bickford, and drummer David Gaither have authored a ten song collection that pulls no punches about the hard-won victories an indie rock band experiences in these times. “Lose Sometimes” opens the album on a hard-bitten, even slightly fatalistic, note Don Babylon maintains throughout every song. Neeley’s terse guitar and droning voice joins for an effective introduction before Gaither and Bickford’s rhythm section attack joins the attack.
:”Line Cook Blues” highlights the band’s songwriting, especially their lyrics, more clearly than we heard with the opener and the arrangement’s cockeyed amble plays on a retro vibe in an idiosyncratic style that’s nonetheless faithful to a blues feel. The album’s third tune “Bed Sheets” moves the band back into a more definable indie vibe, but there’s more melody working through this number than we hear elsewhere on Foul. The lightly chiming touches and slightly hypnotic qualities of Neeley’s guitar playing are contrasted with a solid straight-forward rhythm section performance.
The vocal and guitar melody match one another during the bulk of “Really Fast Cars” and the loose confidence of the song proves that the band may be broke, but it’s no serious impediment to their creativity and the arrangement, once again, has a revolving like quality that seems to be one of their stylistic hallmarks. They diversify their sound some with the addition of organ on the song “Hopeless Man” and the new instrumental voice gives the song’s introduction a melancholy vibe. The remainder of the song is, largely, deliberately paced and hums with much less overt energy than the preceding cuts, but they cut loose during the final quarter of the tune with a passionate final curtain. It isn’t exactly the most upbeat fare one can imagine, but nonetheless proves effective.
“Rocky XXVII”, a humorous title considering the band’s new adopted home of Philadelphia, can be taken as an unadorned chronicle of the trio’s early days in a new city and it’s my favorite song on Foul. The first half of the song is much more restrained, but immensely soulful in an unique way, but the second half of the track cuts loose with passionate guitars and Neeley’s best vocal on the release. “Walking Away” is another gem with an edgy punk rock feel spiking the performance, but it’s never the sort of punk rock that’s free of skill and relying totally on energy. The band produced this album and clearly value spontaneity above all else, but never at the expense of musical quality. Foul’s ten songs are uniformly sturdy and inspired, albeit from living on the margins, but I think that’s a crucial ingredient in the best rock and roll.