With music and lyrics that focus an unwieldy rage with wit and academic-like precision, Broken Baby has burrowed an unlikely path through the sludge of 21st century alternative rock. They’re not riffy, yet they are. They’re not glam, yet they are (or at least front-woman Amber Bollinger certainly is). They’re not catchy, yet they totally are. Trying to figure out what the LA-based quartet is would be an exercise in futility, were it not so much fun trying to pin them down. Because the truth is, Broken Baby wants you to try and pin them down. They invite you into their songs with riffs and glam and pop, only to toss you into the blistering inferno of their devilishly charming kiln. With what No Depression described as “a thousand bucking broncos stampeding through the front range,” Broken Baby pushes muscular freneticism to the boundaries of post-punk modern rock.
Hot off the heels of their critically-acclaimed debut LP in September of 2018, as well as a spattering of support dates for Dead Sara and Portland’s Summer Cannibals in early 2019, the evident growth of the band, led by the Vesuvius-like Bollinger, is clear. “We wanted to be more focused on this second go-a-round,” Bollinger says. “And more deliberate,” guitarist/co-writer Alex Dezen adds. “I think we were just throwing stuff at the wall on the first album,” Bollinger says. “We just had so much to say—a lifetimes worth! It was messy. Necessarily messy.” And as much as their new material holds true to what Pop Dust described as the band’s “lo-fi, unprocessed crunch with a hefty dose of buffed up swish,” “Meat Week,” the first of 3 singles planned for release in 2019, also showcases Bollinger and Dezen’s clever lyrical prowess in their bold takedown of sexual violence, malignant misogyny, and rightwing fanaticism. This is political music, spitfire and full of anger. Yet somehow, beneath the scrape and grind-bop of their relentless charge, there’s something so invitingly cool. You can’t help but be embraced by their gnarly beauty.
Part of that beauty comes from the band’s precise imperfection. You can hear it in guitarist Dezen’s mathy dissonance, the divine architecture in bassist Adam Popick’s rubble, and the metronomic juggle of drummer Brian Griffin’s thwack. And then of course there’s the explosive, bratty, and often turn-on-a-dime operatics of lead singer Amber Bollinger. All that combined with razor sharp lyrical acuity makes for an engaging exploration of modern rock.
The next single, “Royal Pigs,” which is slated for release on August 9 (coinciding with the band’s Echo Park Rising festival appearance on August 15 in Los Angeles), finds Broken Baby at their most focused, breathlessly blasting through this three-and-a-half-minute banger with unrelenting snarl and bop. With the chorus culminating in Bollinger’s anthemic refrain “This is my body/what does it cost?” it’s clear the band isn’t backing away from tackling some of the urgent political issues of these troubled times. The band was able to enlist fellow grinder Hayden Menzies of the rock/noise band METZ to design the custom single art for “Royal Pigs”—an aesthetic match made in post-rock heaven. “I think his art and our song were born out of the same fucked up ooze,” Bollinger says.
With the constant churn of their song machine, not to mention the band’s absolutely blistering live performances, Broken Baby is a modern-day rock juggernaut built for the new DIY ethos of our time. “We’re growing, I think,” Bollinger says, before adding with a laugh, “and that’s not always a good thing.” She’s right. It’s hard to count how many promising bands have lost their way on the second or third release. That middle ground between art and commerce is treacherous by design. The application of existential pressure—life, money, success, failure (rinse, repeat)—can mangle a band’s vision, soften their edges and barbs. But when managed skillfully, as Broken Baby has done on these latest releases, it can actually help a band burrow deeper into the soil of their creation and grow. “We’re not trying to not repeat ourselves,” Dezen says. “We’re just trying to be where we’re at, wherever that is.” “Is that evolving?” Bollinger asks, with a shrug. I think the answer is clear.