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Cesspool by Blake Babies (1989)

568 views 4 months ago
Blake Babies were an American alternative rock band formed in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts. The three primary members were John Strohm, Freda Love (born Freda Boner), and Juliana Hatfield, with Evan Dando, Andrew Mayer, Seth White, Anthony DeLuca (who played drums in place of Freda for the group's last European tour in early 1992), and Mike Leahy each also performing as members of the band at times.

The name "Blake Babies" was provided by the poet Allen Ginsberg; following a reading at Harvard University, the group (which had just begun to play together) raised their hands and asked him to name their band. Ginsberg's suggestion was likely inspired by the first half of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. The name proved quite apt in regard to what was perhaps the group's most distinctive aspect: the juxtaposition of Hatfield's pure, somewhat thin and childlike (yet forceful) vocal quality with often surprisingly acerbic lyrics.

Musically, the Blake Babies' songs are highly melodic, with instruments supporting rather than covering vocals; in this way, their music falls somewhere between pop and rock and could be described as "power pop". Songs are generally upbeat and the group's work features both female (Hatfield) and male (Strohm) vocals, often together in harmony or in octaves. Strohm's intricate guitar picking style and preference for a "clean" (as opposed to distorted) guitar tone owes much to R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, although Neil Young and punk rock are other important influences. Close listening shows that Hatfield's bass playing is particularly expressive, using octaves and sliding tones to create melodies as well as anchoring bass lines. Songs are carefully constructed, with sophisticated harmonic and dynamic shifts showing the results of the band members' training at the Berklee School of Music.

The Blake Babies toured the United States and Europe, eventually achieving a moderate amount of notice, particularly among listeners of college age who were appreciative of the group's "intelligent" brand of rock music. The band's music (released on the independent North Carolina-based record label Mammoth Records) received little airplay on commercial radio, instead being played primarily on college radio stations.

The group formally disbanded in 1991 but reunited briefly in late 1999, performing a few shows in 1999 and 2000 and embarking on one last U.S. tour in 2001.

Following the band's breakup, Hatfield went on to fame as a solo artist, and Strohm and Love continued to perform together in the Indiana-based group Antenna. Hatfield and Love have since worked together in the band Some Girls along with fellow musician Heidi Gluck. Show less
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