Blake Babies: Sunburn (1990)

I was a first year law student in 1990, no longer working at the college radio station and feeling cut off from new music, and Sunburn was one of the records I stumbled across that helped me through it.  While today best remembered as an early record from Juliana Hatfield, who has gone on to a long and varied solo career, the Blake Babies at the time felt to me like one of the cooler things around, edgy indie rock with a great power pop streak running through it.

"Out There" was the single that first got my attention, and even today it holds up as one of the catchiest songs of the era, jangly and longing and dark yet somehow still hopeful; it's just too freakin' great for words, an early career high for Hatfield.  But there are other standouts here.  "Look Away" is a little nastier (actually, a lot of this is pretty far from sunshine and puppies lyrically), perfectly balancing a bit of edge with a buoyant, jangly sound in the verse; "Watch Me Now I'm Calling" is interestingly askew pop; "Kiss and Make Up" is warm and inviting.  

Throughout, Hatfield's fragile, girlish vocals provide an ideal counterpoint to the harsher break-up-aligned lyrics and unpredictably jagged guitar lines which seem designed to keep this from veering too closely into simple pop music.  (I don't know if there's a direct connection, but the distinct guitar sound here seems to presage the sound Liz Phair would champion a few years later on Exile in Guyville.)

Here's the video for "Out There":
Here's "Star" live at a recent reunion gig:
Here's an audio rip of "Look Away":
And, hey, if you've got some time, here's a complete live set from '91 (they hit my favorite song about 10:30 into the video):

Comments

  1. Such a fun, underappreciated record. A fun connect the dots with Strohm through Antenna to Mysteries of Life to the Vulgar Boatmen - all great acts. I see another audio rabbit hole opening up in front of me!

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