Baby Chaos - a great name for a band. And on this album, they live up to its implications. Actually, the swagger of these guys bugged me at first; who do they think they are, debuting with such a tight, nasty, self-satisfied little record?, I wondered. No victims of grunge-era's whiny self pity, Scotland's Baby Chaos would just as soon victimize: they even have a song called "Hello Victim" to emphasize the point.
If the album title sounds conceptual, that's because, "Everything we were writing had to do with drugs or sex" according to singer Chris Gordon. Nothing new in the annals of rock thematics, but this band does give those well-worn topics an enthusiastic workout. To haul out the ever-helpful historical reference points, think of an amalgam of glam-metal of The Sweet and Alice Cooper (the band, not the singer) jacked up to a punkish 90s level of exuberance.
Smooth anthemic harmonies often collide here with hard-rock riffing and a smirking sensibility, as on "Sperm", which leads off the album with a narrative seemingly written from the point of view of that sticky life-substance, a la John Barth's short story "Night-Sea Journey". "You can call me Daddy / that's what I am", sings Gordon, who aptly sums up his own rock aesthetic as "screaming with a big smile on your face." Reducing himself to a organism blindly driven to procreate before he dies, Gordon makes a metacommentary on the cliched role of the "Super-Potent Rock God" even as he sounds happy to personally partake of the mythos.
"Saliva", the next tune, continues the hard-rock assault, with a spiraling main riff that sounds like Black Sabbath on amphetamine. The coy lyrical stance continues: "Everybody loves you / I don't have to love you too" Gordon exclaims in a sneering put-down of a clinging lover. He's even more direct in the next song, unambiguously titled "Go To Hell" (didn't Alice have a song called that?), with its suspenseful musical build-up, bratty sing-song vocal, and explosive chorus. What other band would follow up the sentiment of the song's title with the words "everything's alright." For Baby Chaos, in a fucked-up world being fucked-up is a soothing sign of normalcy.
My personal fave on the album is "Breathe". "I bought her flowers / when she was dead / It was the first time / that I did that / It was pretty bad." The singer's stark lament for a dead lover here moves briefly into blackly humourous self-pity before mutating into in the all-consuming, futile desire for immortality--" I want to live forever / But I'm not that clever"--expressed over a wall of thunderous guitars. Tracks like this one make you realize that--despite the album's (ironic) title--there is still life in seemingly played-out motifs of hard-rock--Baby Chaos make air guitar seem once again a viable form of amusement.
Other highlights on Sex, Designer Drugs and The Death of Rock and Roll include the aforementioned "Hello Victim", which humorously mocks our sad era's victim-obsessions; the laidback wah-wah riffery and almost Beatle-esque harmonies of the album's non-PC single, "Buzz", ("I'm taking a buzz / to see what it does ... I don't wanna stop / I like it a lot / I think everyone should do it"); the gut-wrenching Nirvana grind of "A Bullet For The End", which mocks the helplessness of Cobain youth ("I'm so pathetic"); the lovely neo-psychedelic feel of "Camel" with its hilarious depiction of a self-obsessed, shallow Lothario: "You were everything to me / for twenty minutes / Now I'd rather you would leave / don't forget me."
The album ends on a very high note with "Superpowered", which, over a monstrously funky backbeat, again both exalts in and self-consciously mocks the desire for sovereignty which so often animates the male rocker, as seen in songs like The Who's "I Can See For Miles". As on the rest of the album, these sneering, naughty babies of chaos seem to cry out here for a good spanking, only to smirkingly remind you that such child abuse is illegal, reveling in the contradictions of our age. If you want old-styled hard-rock delivered with a new sense of panache and elan, Baby Chaos is your band of smart-asses.