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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Stolen Babies

There Be Squabbles Ahead!

Review by Mike Korn

I don't know what the boss will make of this. It's not heavy metal yet it has metal parts. It's not typical progressive rock yet it is indeed very unique and therefore "progressive" in its outlook. I throw the towel in and defer to his judgment on where to place this kooky and eccentric release.

One thing I do know: this is extremely entertaining! Stolen Babies can best be described as a mishmash of punk, polka, metal, goth and jazz played with the queasy logic of a child's nightmare. Indeed, the whole CD is covered in cartoony images of unsavory children and their strange games (wonderful artwork by Crab Scrambly thoughout). It's like a cross between Oingo Boingo and Cradle of Filth with one of the most schizophrenic and beguiling female vocalists I've ever heard belting out warped lyrics on top of it all. The lady in question is Dominique Lenore Persi and not only is she extremely fetching to look at, but her voice ranges from a hellish wildcat howl to languorous and seductive crooning. She is an amazing talent and so much more interesting than the current glut of "goth chicks" in rock music.

Dominique is front and center for Stolen Babies, but the whole band is prodigiously talented and multi-instrumental in their outlook. There Be Squabbles Ahead is full of manic energy and bursting with creativity. I understand their live show is an absolute circus and I have no trouble believing that. This is the aural equivalent of Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" and a fun and mesmerizing listen.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Spill!
The nightmare begins with a roar and a thunderclap. Horror movie organ music sets the scene and then things really get hairy with a fast and frantic guitar riff and screaming banshee vocals from Dominique. She demonstrates her awesome versatility right from the start. What a scary howl she unleashes in the middle of the track! This is heavy, to the point and creates an ominous mood from the very start.
Awful Fall
A creepy-crawly bass riff and off the wall keyboards give a spooky feeling to this eccentric little number. It's best described as a strange merger of weird jazz and Voi Vod like angular riffing. The vocals are not as berserk as on "Spill!" yet they still have an uneasy quality to them. Rani Sharone's bass gets a workout on this tune.
Filistrata
This sounds like the soundtrack to a twisted cartoon...comical yet somewhat menacing. Instruments like horns and accordions start to become more prominent and Dominique's vocals are entrancing. I classify it as a kind of cross between new wave and cartoon music, with a little punk tossed in.
A Year of Judges
There ought to be a law against songs this catchy. Again, a strong bass riff propels the song, which has a smooth and exotic flavor. The vocals again show amazing range and there's a real cool "warbling" or stuttering effect on the chorus. This gets pretty heavy and aggressive in parts.
Tablescrap
This has a real gypsy feel with its accordion parts, but you can also hear some corny, cool theremin music. Stolen Babies has definitely established a very identifiable sound, with a mix between Blondie-style catchiness, ethnic music and an edgier, heavier vibe. There's even some speedy thrash like riffing on this one! But how many times do you hear an accordion over that kind of music?
Swint? Or Slude?
This tune reminded me of Oktoberfest with its "oompah" band sound and it has the tubas to prove it. The wailing clarinet and corny sounding trumpet add a kind of Yiddish feel. I can envision fat German folks from the 19th century waddling along to this. This instrumental is silly, comical and thoroughly delightful.
Mind Your Eyes
The metal feel becomes much more pronounced here with a strong guitar hook and an urgent energy that propels the song. Dominique gets to unload that banshee scream again.
Lifeless
To contrast with the manic vibrations emanating from the previous cut, this is a mellow, more relaxed song with a languorous, sexy vocal performance from Dominique. Listen carefully to the meticulous percussion in the background and how organ and accordion add so much atmosphere. Despite its laidback feel, there's still a dark, sad touch to the track.
Tall Tales
Strong synth beats kick this off and then the mood gets very frantic and aggressive, with fast riffs and nasty vocals. This tune covers a lot of ground but it's amazing how it all meshes together. Spiteful shrieks nestle right alongside smooth, Debby Harry-like crooning and a male voice joins in to help Dominique out - not that she needs much help.
Push Button
If you can, you should really try to catch the video for this cut. It's full of some of the most incredible demented animation you will ever see. The song itself is supremely catchy, based on a simple hook. This is what hard-edged melodic pop music should sound like. It would make a great single.
Gathering Fingers
Beginning in a spooky but restrained manner, austere vocals relate a cautionary tale while accordion plays mournfully in the background. This song gradually builds and builds, becoming more strident and up-tempo. And then it really explodes into horrific caterwauling, discordant instruments and a scary intensity. The whole feeling here is of a world gone out of whack and spinning out of control.
The Button Has Been Pushed
This is a brief bossa nova sounding piece with cornball vocals. Can you believe an accordion dueling with a sitar? Well, you'll get it here.
 
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