When press first came out for Total Babes, a lot of attention was given to the fact that it featured a member of Cloud Nothings, and to a certain extent, that’s a fair association, as the similarities are definitely visible. However, Swimming Through Sunlight, the band’s debut on Old Flame Records isn’t just a re-imagining; it stand up on its own merit.
If you’re looking for a catchy lo-fi hook, you won’t have to look beyond the first song, as “Like They Always Do” features a chorus that grabs you while the noise distortion swells in the background. It’s a quick hammering, not staying around too long for fear of giving you a little bit too much sugar. But, while this shares that affinity for noisy-garage pop a la the aforementioned association, the next track, “Be So Sure” shows resemblance to another lo-fi pop band, The Thermals (it’s not just me is it?). Perhaps the vocals could be cleaned up a bit more on the recording, but it definitely has that sweetness mixed nicely with a bit of excessive noise, just like Hutch would want it.
One of the best things about listening to Swimming Through Sunlight is that you can see various touches of the modern musical landscape, but the inherent melodies and songwriting enable to group to move beyond pure mockery. “Someone to Blame” sounds an awful like Wavves at their best, even featuring a similar lyrical style, using simple words to convey a message. I suppose that various sources can knock the group for a lack of originality, but you can easily look beyond that once you get to the core of the songs. They’re not too long, giving you just a taste of their glory, then moving on, asking you to revisit at a later point.
Personally, I would like to see Total Babes revisit the studio with a bit more of a polish and sheen. For instance, there’s a brightness to the opening guitar line in “Without Your Heart,” but that clarity eventually parts for a grittier sound. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, as it serves its purpose in a great deal of the tracks featured on the record, but a certain sharpness could really propel these songs to the next level. Even in the closer, “Tip of My Tongue,” there’s this incredible element of pop, but it’s buried so far beneath the mix that it comes off sounding more like a demo than a final product. It’s the slightest difference between an incredible song and just a really good one.
All in all, Swimming Through Sunlight is full of bright spots, and its clear that the songwriting is far more than just your moderate fare, but Total Babes still have a bit of work to do in the finished product. Clear vocals here, bit of distortion removed there, and you’ve got a wonderful record full of memorable hooks, sing-a-long moments, and enough power to kick the rest of the genre in the face; looking forward to that day![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/02-be-so-true.mp3]
Download: Total Babes – Be So True [MP3]