Thursday, December 13, 2012

Babysitter Has An Eye On Scuzzy Rock

Babysitter Victoria
Two months ago, Psychic Handshake Recordings proved again that they have a hand on the pulse of Canadian underground as they signed the scuzzy garage rock trio Babysitter out of Victoria, British Columbia. The Montreal-based label was right in time to help the band release its first proper debut, Eye.

While only a handful of people have been introduced to the band stateside, Babysitter has been both elusive and ubiquitous in Canada, putting out small-run cassettes and 7-inchers and touring coast-to-coast. Any time there is a lineup of rising alternative and underground rock bands, Babysitter is there.

Eye is 13 tracks of gritty, imperfect rock. 

Heavily influenced by the lo-fi alternative scene, Babysitter puts out garage rock with punk and proto-punk leanings. There are often nods to other genres too, anything and everything from rural rock to hair pop and from 60s slow to 90s wild.

Some of it is hardwired to their roots. Two early members, Andy Vanier (bass) and Renny McClure (drums), used to play with a fuzzy indie folk collective of revolving musicians called Seaweedhead before cutting out with frontman Kristian North (vocals, guitar) to lay down something infinitely harder and less restrained.

Although McClure has since split, Babysitter quickly recruited Seaweedhead vet Aden Collinge to pick up the sticks. The transition has taken almost no time, something North and Vanier say has been fortunate. The biggest requirement, it seems, is finding someone who is ready to bust out a string of shorts that somehow meld into 60 minutes of near-continuous music. It's how they roll — urgent but fun.

The video, Holiday, is the two-and-a-half minute short version that appeared on the 7" split with Korean Girl. On the full-length album Eye, Holiday is much longer at nearly four minutes. The longer version is more explicit, packing in more pointed commentary (the kind of stuff that possibly prompted the band to be a bit more elusive about their everyday lives in recent months).

They seem to have that paradoxical approach to nearly everything. They take a never-look-back approach to their music, pushing out songs as fast as they can write them, but also recording everything they do inside their home studio. The contradiction fuels their creativity, with North writing straightforward lyrics about whatever they talk about and the music arranged to convey the feel of it.

Listen carefully to some of it and any meaning gleaned is likely to change. As direct as North can be, metaphor is also part of the repertoire. And his ability to scream it all out effortlessly lends to its honesty within whatever they make.

Eye is essentially a virile live set cut in a studio, maybe at home.

Standouts from the album include the punked up Talkin Bout The New Generation and its garage rock companion 1969Ties. Both serve up the severity of the band (much like Gotta Be Me, Gotta Be Free), but their slower moments strike the right chords too. Crace Mountain is a solid stripped back, acoustically-driven folk rocker and 1000 Girls plays like it is positioned — a meandering, croaky closer when energy is all spent but not the experimentation. It's a healthy, addictive dose of cross-genre noise.

Calling out a few standouts might give people a place to start, but Eye is best listened to in its entirety. Anyone cutting up the album into little tiny bits will miss out considerably (much like if they skipped tracks off anything put out by Jamestown Massacre). In this case, the entirety of the album creates a wildly bipolar wave of egomanic elation and deflated depression.

Eye By Babysitter Blinks Up 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There is something exciting about Babysitter and its ascent out of the otherwise quiet community of Victoria. Never mind that you'll sometimes hear arrangements that sound uncomfortably familiar. Babysitter makes everything abrasive and scrappy enough that any such nod is offset by their impromptu spontaneity. They are definitely a band to watch and worth seeing live.

Eye by Babysitter was recently released on iTunes. Eye is also available for download on Amazon. In keeping with their elusiveness, there aren't many places to connect with the band. The best bet to find tour dates is off their sparsely appointed tumblr page. Otherwise, follow their label, Psychic Handshake, on Facebook.
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