At the start of “Shovin’ Rocks”, the first single from “Sliver And Gold”, there’s an exultant shout of “Rock N Roll!” before the thought that “I’ve been shoving rock n roll for 30 years…..”
I’d seen Backyard Babies play this song recently when they acted as special guests to Skid Row, but the significance only hit me when I began to listen to the album. Thirty years. Good god.
It might be thirty years since three childhood friends got together with a singer called Nicke Borg and changed their name to Backyard Babies, but its 21 since I turned up to see them in Dudley, in the Black Country at a long-closed venue, on my 23rd birthday for one of the greatest gigs of all time.
There they were, topping a bill with the Yo-Yos and Radiator, and I am stood next Ginger and Rich from The Wildhearts and the four piece from Sweden’s south delivered one of the best hours you will ever see.
They’d just broken out, really with “Total 13” and words cannot – even more than two decades on – explain how much of an affect that record had on me. The record clubs I was in and the bank balance after I’d imported all that Scandinavian punk n roll, speaks for itself, after all.
But on “…. Rocks” there’s another line: “the names might change” sings Borg. “but we remain the same, we’re a rocking engine with an eternal flame……”
He’s half right. The names, you see, never changed. The same four guys, a brotherhood, a gang, if you like, and the same sound, sort of, that they’ve had since they remerged in 1998 (their debut which I bought after I’d worn the shit out of “….13”, sounds like Guns N Roses).
But then, haven’t all the greatest bands in the world got a sound that you know is them? Maiden, AC/DC, the aforementioned Wildhearts, come on! And make no mistake BB belong in that category. OK, they might not fill the arenas of a couple of them, but those who know, well, know.
“Good Morning Midnight” throbs its way to an opener, but when the drums kick in, it could only be them, and really, who embodies rock n roll better?
“Simple Being Sold” seems to be an attack on modern consumerism, while “Ragged Flag” adds something of a funky guitar lick to the usual punk flavour. “Yes To All No” fools you into thinking it’s a ballad, before building up to a chorus that sticks around, and if “Bad Seeds” is more like the norm, then it still the work of men with a total mastery of their craft.
In truth there’s nothing approaching a weak point throughout this. “44 Undead” almost reprises “Minus Celsius”, tellingly, though, the title track is a punk affair, while “A Day Late In My Dollar Shorts” has a real taste of something Michael Monroe might do.
The way it finishes, though, is interesting. Where everything else has been short and sharp and as rock n roll as Lemmy’s denim jacket, “Laugh Now Cry Later” is a piano led ballad, and it is properly reflective. “Like a game of chess, but you don’t know the rules of chess” offers a line in its second verse, and when you think about it, isn’t that the best take on the confusion of life that anyone has ever come up with?
All that and philosophy too, who’d have thought it. There’s one thing, however, that I’ve learned in the last 20 odd years of loving this band. Never underestimate the Backyard Babies. And, even if “Sliver And Gold” isn’t quite the pinnacle of their careers, it still sounds more vital, energetic and fresh than a band of their vintage has a right to. The gold standard is right here.