Made Out of Babies comes back as Bad Powers
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 22:10
For those of you disheartened by the dissolution of Made Out of Babies, here’s your consolation prize. Bad Powers is three fourths of Made Out of Babies, featuring guitarist Brendan Tobin, bassist Eric Cooper and drummer Matthew Egan. The only change is the switch from Julie Christmas’ vocals to Megan Tweed, who is still somewhat of a rookie to the scene.
Considering Made Out of Babies only broke up in March of this year, it’s clear that Tobin, Cooper and Egan wasted no time getting new material out there and made Christmas look bad for apparently dragging her feet on a new solo album. “Bad Powers” is the reformation’s brand new, self-titled debut. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the style, both Bad Powers and Made Out of Babies straddle lines between post-hardcore, sludge metal and noise rock. Although all three of those genres are closely related, Bad Powers and Made Out of Babies are rare acts that cannot be clearly associated with one over the other.
Since the two bands are stylistically consistent, there’s really only one talking point when we get down to brass tacks, and that’s the vocals. Unfortunately, there’s really no fair way of looking at it. Megan Tweed is a competent vocalist—in fact, I’d go so far as to say she’s a good vocalist—but she’s filling Julie Christmas’ shoes, and although Christmas is a tiny lady, they’re pretty big shoes.
I think part of the problem is that Tweed does not splash around in the filth quite as eagerly as Christmas does. Sludge metal and noise rock are two genres that demand a certain foulness, and Christmas was an artist that let you see the bile dripping from her teeth. That’s what made her such an engaging performer. While I’m not trying to make Tweed seem all sunshine and lollipops (she still brings the fire), she just doesn’t sell it quite as well. Her vocals are certainly punchy enough, but she lacks the same creeping insanity that comes so naturally for Christmas during some of the band’s more insidious moments.
Additionally, I think it’s important to note that Bad Powers has toned it down a bit. They’re still an aggressive band and their sludge/hardcore traditions run deep, but they’ve attempted to refine their sound into a more post-punk aesthetic. They make it work, yet I can’t help but question whether it was an appropriate decision. There’s nothing quite so savage as “Cooker” or “How to Get Bigger” (both defining tracks off of Made Out of Babies last album, “The Ruiner”), and I really miss that. I still want Bad Powers to be a band for the punks and the metalheads.
But although the most savage moments of Bad Powers do not stack up to the most savage moments of Made Out of Babies, “Bad Powers” is great when it comes to the slightly more subdued, atmospheric material. One of the high points of the album is “Millenium,” a blood-soaked detective story featuring some excellent guest contributions from Oxbow’s Eugene Robison. Robison’s low, cigarette-scorched sputter provides a brilliant complement to Tweed’s strangled warble. The resulting sound is something along the lines of The B-52’s from hell.
To be perfectly fair, the Bad Powers features a first-rate line-up, and their members’ songwriting and compositional abilities are constantly improving. Although Tweed is a step down from Christmas in terms of raw authority, the music still works. Honestly, if Bad Powers wasn’t continuing a precedent set by Made Out of Babies, I would have few complaints.
If Bad Powers sticks around (which I hope they do), I anticipate that Megan Tweed will soon become more than just Julie Christmas’ replacement. Despite their debut being a somewhat transitional album, they still do some excellent work, and they still retain a unique and evolving sound.