Welcome to “Flashbacks”, the section where Sean gives me too much freedom and I probably dig myself a hole whilst pretending that this is an original thing and not some sort of continuation of “Flashback Fridays”.
Here’s the first one.
On the 29th of August 2015 I was in Katoomba with a friend in order to help help his mum set up for a garage sale.
It was the day before I was heading off to Melbourne in order to head off to Japan for a few weeks.
Shortly past midday and we were on our way back to Sydney. We were seeing Regurgitator with another friend at Manning Bar that night.
Some band that I had not heard of before was the 2nd support. initially I did not know what to make of them as I found them to be a bit strange, but just like the rest of the crowd I warmed up to them by the end of their set.
When we headed home I stayed up to find out who the 2nd support was. It was not long before I bought GODSWOUNDS’ album Death to the Babyboomers and went to sleep.
In Japan Death to the Babyboomers saw a fair bit of play. It worked well as a soundtrack to a fair number of the places I visited and I found it to be a curious listen that had little issue taking root as its intricacies revealed themselves to me the more I listened.
When I came back to Australia I found that the album had grown so much on me that it has remained one that I keep coming back to on a regular basis.
Death to the Babyboomers opens with the bouncy synth line of “Hachiko Exit” setting the framework for the rest of the song. It progresses and builds as each instrument comes in and slightly alters the song. It’s a nice opener with a good amount of energy and a rather upbeat sound without diving into excess or overwhelming the listener. It’s a strong introduction that gives a bit of an idea of the shape of the album without revealing too much.
Instead of flopping, the album remains consistently strong from the introduction to the end. It goes through songs that have a great ebb and flow between each section, as well as between the songs themselves. Some of the songs could be seen as more straightforward than others, such as “One by One” and “Pygmalion”, and the more relaxed “Boson Loves Fermion”, whereas other songs such as “Car Eater” and “Forgiveness is for Cowards” lean a bit more toward the abstract.
However, this doesn’t harm Death to the Babyboomers. Instead the songs retain consistency due to working with the experimental, fun and direct framework of the album.
There’s a strong theatrical feel to the whole album in the way the songs progress and how each instrument and vocal builds on up over each other. This is best exemplified in “Dirty Habits”, a song that has gradually builds up through each section toward a fairly tense middle section then pulls back and goes back to being something (comparatively) more subdued and lighter. It then rises again, yet cuts off before a loud climax and naturally flows into a subdued, lighter section once more. Rather than following linearly, the vocals build on and layer over each other, becoming as expansive as the melody due to the guitar, synth, bass and percussion doing the same. “Dirty Habits” makes for something quite large, but it never oversteps its boundaries. It knows when to release and pull back in and never sounds as though anything is in excess.
Despite the album being recorded piecemeal, the album sounds more like a lively group performance. The percussion holds down the beat well whilst pushing outward, the bass follows suit whilst guiding the melody and the guitar alternates through a few different techniques and styles without being showy. Additionally, the trumpet seems to glide along whilst alternating between emphasizing various melodic lines and the vocals whilst occasionally adding its own melodies. Death to the Babyboomers is a fair bit more precise than many live recordings, but at the same time it does sound as though everyone is playing off of each other as a unit whilst bringing a bit of themselves to the table instead of each member vying for centre stage.
With that being said, particular attention can be paid to how the chiptune elements are used.
Like everything else they play a prominent role in the shape of the songs throughout the record and at times seem to be used more for enunciation rather than something more at the forefront. Furthermore they are not used on every song and are balanced out with other synth sounds throughout the album, preventing them from wearing out their welcome.
The vocals are as theatrical and dynamic as the instrumentation. Most of the singing is clean and there are a lot of vocal harmonies and interplay used throughout, but on occasion there’s something that resembles black metal shrieking used to great effect. They usually sound fairly serious although there is also a bit of playfulness scattered through the album, and on “The Ballad of John Connor” they manage to sound as silly as they are serious. The vocals are always a good fit to each song and are sung with much aplomb. Furthermore, the vocals from guests Carla Kihlstedt (“Dirty Habits”) and Eugene S. Robinson (“Car Eater”) are performed as strongly as the rest of the vocals and feel very appropriate for the songs they are used. This leads to them sounding more like vocals that are a part of the songs than just a guest lending their vocals.
Death to the Babyboomers manages to get away with having two closers.
The first, “Monster Island” seems to be inspired in part by reggae. It starts off fairly low-key and gradually becomes more grand and in some parts ornate whilst wrapping up the whole album quite nicely. Essentially “Monster Island” feels as massive as its title would suggest.
This is then followed by “Trails!”, a rather bouncy track that has a few soft, yet uptempo moments interspersed with loud guitar-driven sections and ends in something analogous to a noise meltdown. After “Monster Island” it works well due to how much smaller it feels whilst also remaining large in scope.
When GODSWOUNDS announced last year that Death to the Babyboomers was going to be released on vinyl I was quite excited. It had been a couple of years since there had been anything GODSWOUNDS-related announced and it was, for me a confirmation that the band was still around.
I recently gave the vinyl version of Death to the Babyboomers a few spins and was glad that it holds up well to the original version. The vocals seem to be a little lower in the mix and some of the more subtle sounds have been brought forward.
“The Ballad of John Connor” has been moved to appearing after “Pygmalion”, whilst “Boson Loves Fermion” and “Trails!” have been removed, which leads to the second half of the vinyl having a bit of a different feel when compared to the original album. It becomes a bit more direct and has a little less of a break, but there is a synergy between “Stationary Fiend” and “Pygmalion” that wasn’t there before which works really well and the album still has a strong conclusion.
It’s hard to say if either version of Death to the Babyboomers is superior. Having two songs missing is a shame, but the vinyl brings attention to some of the other sounds that weren’t as obvious on the original release. It also sounds as clean and dynamic, and in some places more so than the original. They compliment each other well, but both aren’t required for a complete experience.
There’s a fair bit going on with Death to the Babyboomers despite how simple it sounds. The songs have a lot of personality to them and whilst they may have initiated from one person, it’s clear that there was a room for each member of GODSWOUNDS to bring in their personality and style. Instead of becoming a mess, the album sounds like the sum of its parts. It’s really lively despite being recorded piecemeal and it doesn’t sound like anyone is giving less than 100%. Furthermore, it sounds experimental whilst sounding natural.
However, Death to the Babyboomers really does well is something that a lot of artists seem to be unable to pull off: it sounds fun without compromising on quality or sounding trite. Some of the songs are more serious than others, but overall the record is consistently upbeat.
With that being said, whilst Death to the Babyboomers is a strong album and one that has remained in my regular rotation, it leaves me thinking that GODSWOUNDS can do much better. The album is strong, but, along with the E.P. (小吃) that came before it, it feels more as a base to build from despite how complete it sounds.
GODSWOUNDS are a band that I was glad to see perform live, as it has allowed me to say that Death to the Babyboomers is an album that I’m glad I’ve heard. it’s worth experiencing and letting it carry you on its journey. If you go for the digital / C.D. version or the vinyl version, or perhaps both, you’re in for a treat.
Death to the Babyboomers can be found here.