Album Review: Broken Baby – Late Stage Optimism

Artist: Broken Baby

Album: Late Stage Optimism

Genre: Alternative Rock/Indie Rock/Post-Punk

Label: Poor Man Records

Rating: 8/10

There’s a bone I’ve got to pick with major music publications. For awhile now “Rock” and its countless subgenres have been neglected by your favorite cool and contemporary music blogs and publications, and this stems from the misguided belief that “rock is dead.” Now I’m not here to scream “Rock is not dead!” like a character straight out of a Wayne’s World movie, but the negligence that plagues the modern Rock world is more problematic than you think. Rock is not the zeitgeist, and it hasn’t been for over a decade. In fact, the last movement to reach commercial success other than the short-lived Garage Rock Revival scene of the early 2000s was the Nu-Metal movement, and I’m not even going to mention how embarrassing that is. This is problematic because the countless bands in the Rock world whether it be Post-Punk, Alternative Rock, Garage Rock, Punk Rock, Indie Rock etc. aren’t being pushed to the masses enough, and this failure falls on major streaming platforms and their poorly curated playlists, and most contemporary Rock stations whose heaviest or most cutting edge band they play is “Twenty One Pilots.” This unfortunately leads to less exposure. That isn’t to say Rock bands aren’t thriving in the underground. In fact, this gives countless bands the chance to garner a more devoted fan base, which will weed out the trend-hoppers, and the internet is so vast that you can discover as many bands as you want at anytime. I just would like to see more music publications providing a more in depth analysis when covering Rock bands. This has got me thinking that L.A. based duo “Broken Baby’s” new album Late Stage Optimism would have topped the charts had it been released in the 90s or early 2000s. Not that the album is derivative or overly nostalgic, but there was more of a respectful focus on Rock music in those times. However, don’t misconstrue my old man yells at cloud rant about contemporary Rock music as charity or a ploy to get you to feel sorry for Broken Baby and other bands of their like, because Broken Baby are doing just fine with their explosive, fun, thought-provoking, and infectious music. Their sophomore album Late Stage Optimism is their best work by far, and the perfect example of how to correctly combine attitude driven guitar Rock with Pop sensibilities. The Pop elements come from lead singer Amber Bollinger’s catchy as Hell vocals, and I do mean catchy. She has crafted some of the most sing-along-able choruses I’ve heard in a very long time, but along with those catchy hooks lies her sharp and witty lyrical content. These lyrics refuse to stay in one spot, they tackle important topics but the album never gets too bleak or serious, which may be a reflection on how we awkwardly approach touchy topics or try to exit certain conversations with a nervous laugh, and this might be a complete misinterpretation, but I feel like the frequent sense of humor on this album satirizes the try-hards out there who speak out against injustice but freeze up when confronted with the real deal. A track like “Madonna’s a Dick” has no business being that catchy given the fact that it’s about the unfair treatment women face in the entertainment business where they’re sexualized and faced with double standards, but if you want people to listen, sometimes you have to lure them in with straight-forward catchiness. However that sense of humor and sense of fun are far from performative, because it’s evident that the two have a natural sense of humor. Just listen to the opening track “Get the Piss Up” and you’ll know what I mean. The track is a celebration of those moments when you’re having the time of your life dancing and raging with friends. The catchiest track on the album “Manic Panic” has some clever wordplay that inspires me to write better, not to mention the line “Nada Surf with you” on the closing track “Hand Heat” still blows my mind. These multi-faceted lyrics have prompted me to over-analyze, and the journey has been frustrating and immensely enticing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Is the track “Meaniac” about men victimizing themselves and labeling women “mean” when they don’t get what they want? Is the track “Cloud Coverage” about escapism and the many vices we use to bury vulnerability? Am I completely misinterpreting these songs? Am I really being over-analytical? All of these questions arise while the music sounds fully-fleshed out with just two primary members, and this is the result of guitarist and backing vocalist Alex Dezen’s eclectic guitar stylings. This is some of the most unique and utterly infectious guitar work I’ve heard on a record in quite a long time. I believe this album will forever remain timeless. Though it has elements of genres that will remind you of an older era, it still manages to sound modern and features topics that will remain relevant for a very long time, and who can deny the addicting personality this album offers? If there’s an album that can get the masses to pay attention to the Rock world it’s this one, and I feel like this is the step in the right direction, but don’t simply lump Broken Baby in a category, because Broken Baby are Broken Baby, and no one else.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

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