Album Review: Better Luck Next Life by Royal Baths
Satisfactory, Based on 6 Critics
Prefix Magazine - 65 Based on rating 6.5/10
It’s funny we have bands called Royal Baths and Royal Bangs – sure they come from vastly different parts of the States, equipped with independent margins and their own stratified sounds-- but they both made music that might’ve been restricted to the record-clerks if it weren’t for the internet’s democracy. That charred, broken-glass, strung-out post-punk can infiltrate Facebook and Spotify with little hesitation is a shockingly new phenomenon – especially considering how the music isn’t always novel. Royal Baths are a Brooklyn quartet of shredded, garage-goth merchants.
The San Francisco garage-psych world isn't a bastion of optimism, but it's a little too sunshiney for Royal Baths. Perhaps that's why the duo moved to Brooklyn ahead of the release of its second full-length, Better Luck Next Life, an album gloomy almost to the point of self-parody. It's nine songs about black souls, black hearts, S&M, and dark lords pounded out over Bo Diddley beats.
Between their debut album Litanies and its follow-up Better Luck Next Life, Royal Baths moved from San Francisco to New York, but the musical distance they traversed was even greater. Feeling constrained by Frisco's garage rock scene, Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer try a more expansive approach here, stretching out their songs and putting more emphasis on their guitar work. While their commitment to growth is admirable, it isn't always successful.
Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer, the duo that comprises Royal Baths, don’t seem all that ashamed of putting their influences up front in their music. Their brand of psychedelic rock doesn’t even necessarily feel modern, and all the bands that have been mentioned in the past—Velvet Underground and so on—are still fitting comparison on Better Luck Next Life. What’s interesting about Royal Baths, though, is how the duo manages to overcome that sameness by embracing it.
Royal Baths’ return is a thoroughly twisted exercise in free reign. Feeling stifled among the garage rock scene of San Francisco, the group found a new and fitting home in New York. The inspired ’60s psych rock is still there on Better Luck Next Life, but this time around, Royal Baths is giving us a taste of darkness. Though an average listener may not identify with striking deals with the devil or daydreaming of murder, it’s hard to deny Royal Baths are having a damn good time.
The move to New York City from San Francisco seemed inevitable for Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer of Royal Baths. While the duo can’t really escape its Bay City influences, the dark and gloomy nature of New York is a perfect fit for Cox and Baer on their second album, Better Luck Next Life. Better Luck Next Life follows up the band’s 2010 album, Litanies.