Album Review: Babel – Crooked Timber

This eclectic album from Bristol-based sextet Babel is a menagerie of sounds and influences so wide-ranging that it’s impossible to know which genre to expect next.  Folk, indie rock, blues and rockabilly sit side-by-side in the band’s follow up to 2007’s mini-album Pearl Street Raga.

At points this album is heavily reminiscent of The Coral, with touches of the Divine Comedy and Kings of Leon.  According to the Sunday Telegraph, however, they are “a cross between Led Zep III, Rufus Wainwright and Midlake”.  As is probably becoming clear, Babel’s sound is nay on impossible to define.

Their songs refer to such diverse subject matter as genetic inheritance (‘Hand me Down’), hating school (‘Trinity Thugs’) and the human fascination with the misfortunes of others (‘Rubbernecking’).

One stand-out track is ‘Police Car’, a self-styled modern murder ballad which takes stock of the breakdown of a relationship with the angry-yet-beautiful lines “You crawled home last night / in the back of a police car / with your sanctity intact / And my heart in a jam jar”.  The first single off the album, ‘Make Your Bed’ is a bluesy contemplation of the modern world’s increasing reluctance to accept the consequences of its actions.

The hard-learnt lessons of a hedonistic past are woven together here into a fabric of considerable complexity, and the rockabilly twists of ‘(It’s So) Hard to Love You Like This’ make the track an ideal finale, bringing together a choir of voices singing about their past bad relationships in a breath of hope for the future.

‘Crooked Timber’ is due for release on 18 October 2008.


Words: Helen True

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