Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Wichita
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“We’re going to take our time, ignore the signs,” promise Total Babes at the opening of ‘Blurred Time’. Four years on from their debut ‘Swimming Through Sunlight’ and the Ohio quartet finally return with a follow-up in the shape of ‘Heydays’. Glistening with barbed hooks hidden under scuzzy exuberance and the occasional saxophone-led breakdown, courtesy of Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi, ‘Heydays’’ eight tracks may toe the line between album and EP but in terms of distance covered, the record is a full-length adventure.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Initially serving as a repository for the residual fall out deemed too flimsy for Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerwycz and his roommate Chris Brown's noise-rock project Swindella, Ohio trio Total Babes released their garage punk debut Swimming Through Sunlight back in 2011 only to drop off the radar almost as quickly as they appeared. Output from the trio may have since been sparse, but that's not for a want of work ethic; rather the complete opposite as Gerwycz and Cloud Nothings managed to squeeze a couple of albums and a barbaric tour schedule ("it was insane, we're never doing that again" vowed frontman Dylan Baldi) into the ensuing two years.
When Total Babes' debut album, Swimming Through Sunlight, appeared in 2011, the group's connection to Cloud Nothings was duly noted. Both groups hailed from the Cleveland area, and Jayson Gerycz had played drums in both bands. Also similar to Cloud Nothings, Total Babes started out playing bratty, somewhat amateur, lo-fi pop-punk similar to Wavves, but have shown marked maturity and increased production values and musicianship.
Purveying a certain style of American indie rock very much in favour at the moment, Total Babes have all the correct boxes ticked: ironic name missing the ‘The’ prefix? Check. Upbeat and poppy but lo-fi and nonchalant? Check. Indebted to Nineties skate culture and various other Generation X tropes? Check. Probably say the word ‘rad’ a lot? Probably check.
Seldom does a record root itself so exclusively in the grey as Total Babes’ Heydays. The Babes’ is a sound caught between the exuberant and the esoteric; the juvenile and the nostalgic; the reactionary and the overthought; and, most tellingly, an implosive Venn diagram of pop, noise, and punk. The end result is something too abrasive to call pop, too calculative to call punk, and too straightforward to call noise.
Total Babes are just a bunch of softies. Hidden behind their fast drums, uniform vocals and fuzz guitars are innocent lyrics, and while their debut album found them hiding their teenage lyrics behind their garage rock sound, the band's sophomore album lays it all bare.Heydays starts with a more sophisticated garage rock sound — more dynamic songs with less fuzz and catchier guitar riffs and synth melodies. "Circling," for example, stands out thanks to its rugged bass, synth space blasts and uptempo drums.
Side projects from non-frontpersons come loaded with risk. Sound at all similar to your main band, and you’re written off as derivative or unnecessary. While it’s true that Total Babes‘ Jayson Gerycz drums for Cloud Nothings, that’s always been Dylan Baldi’s baby, the other band members filling in his paint-by-numbers. Yet the side project narrative remains thanks to that band’s rapid ascent.