I was first introduced to Backyard Babies’ music as a band that played a kind of punk ‘n' roll. Sure enough, I listened to their Total 13 album and they played a style of rock that appeared to be heavily influenced by Social Distortion but often with anthem-like choruses and a little more guitar heroics. As their albums progressed, some of the Social Distortion similarities had been toned down, and the tempos seemed slightly slower overall. I was glad to see they were finding more of their own way of doing things but the sounds that greeted me from the speakers this time around sounded like a pretty substandard hard rock album.
Now you might be saying to yourself “Wait a minute, what is this guy doing reviewing this if he hates hard rock?” That isn’t the case -- I’ll throw on Highway to Hell and Destroyer occasionally and Mötley Crüe’s first album is amongst my guilty pleasures. The major problem with this record isn’t the songwriting so much as it is the production. Nicke Andersson provides a relatively glossy finish to the album, where before there was a respectable level of grit to the Babies’ music. Hard rock by and large is a genre that is a style over substance, and in order to be effective as a sleazy dirty rock band, the music should translate that. Here it does not and that is one of the major downfalls of the album.
I found the album title to be really quite bad. The album itself kicks off with the title track, which has an upbeat classic rock 'n' roll feel to it. Lo and behold, things start out decent enough and the chorus hits with the words "people like people like people like us" repeated. At first this seems pretty catchy, but it just ends up getting very annoying very quickly by the second chorus. Similarly, “Cockblocker Blues” starts off with a darker sound offsetting the track before, but then once the lyrics kick in it becomes an embarrassingly laughable song. Some of the gems encrusted go, "When I dance I’m tailed by a dog called ego / and you don’t move at all / when I talk you bark with a pitch black halo." What does that mean exactly? I’m not too sure; I guess it means you are a cockblocker. This is a problem a lot of the record suffers, with the music being good but the lyrics being lines that rhyme for the sake of it. Cheese like this can be forgiven if a band relishes in their own cheese such as the Darkness. I’ll let the Swedes off though somewhat because of a possible language barrier.
Mostly, these shortcomings can be overlooked when they keep things catchy such as the shout-along chorus in “Dysfunctional Professional.” It isn’t even that the record is that flat out bad like the aforementioned “Cockblocker Blues” -- the problem is the majority of the record doesn’t really have anything that sticks. A few of the songs on the later half of the album cover the same sort of underdog territory that Mr. Ness would and therefore are executed successfully. Songs such as “I Got Spades,” which could be a shoe-in for an outtake from Billy Idol’s Devil's Playground, and “You Cannot Win” wouldn’t be completely out of place on Sex, Love & Rock ‘n' Roll.
The asinine sticker on the cover proclaims this record to be “pure rock n roll." When I think of rock 'n' roll I’d prefer if I still had the sounds of Chuck Berry or the Stooges, rather than this record. It has its strong moments and keeps things to a decent length per song, but in an age when music is as disposable as muffin stumps, this record doesn’t have much to warrant too many spins or people's hard earned cash.