Artists // Babe Report

With a squall of guitar and a crash of drums, two years on from the release of their exhilarating debut EP, Chicago noisemakers Babe Report finally release their debut album in 2024, in the form of the rough-and-ready Did You Get Better, released this Spring via Exploding In Sound. Formed of ten new songs, and all wrapped in under half an hour, it’s an immediate and breathless arrival.

Where the band initially existed as a lockdown-inspired duo, Babe Report became a fully-fledged four-piece on the aforementioned The Future of Teeth EP, with Ben Grigg and Emily Bernstein expanding their line-up to include Peter Reale on drums and Mech on bass. Such reinforcements grow exponentially here, and they come to define Did You Get Better. Both a bigger and more accomplished version of the band than we’ve heard to-date, the album boasts a woozy concoction of 90s-drenched guitars and melodic grooves.

Recorded over just one weekend in November 2023, using several one-of-a-kind prototype mics at Radon Ranch - Ben and Emily’s humble basement studio - the songs here are both gripping in their immediacy and wholly intoxicating. Embracing disorder throughout, Babe Report funnel their influences into something both boisterous and exuberant; a thunderstorm trapped inside a bottle.

Opening track ‘Turtle of Reaper’ arrives in a flurry of noise and energy. Presented as an indictment of the fear-mongering in click-bait media, it’s a cacophonous two-minutes of scorched vocals and frenetic drums, the chorus a call back to 12/31/99,
when all the news told people to turn off their computers before Y2K hit.

Elsewhere, ‘Universal’ offers something somewhat more refined, with occasional moments of restraint amid the commotion that arrives in a hardy whack of heavy riffs. “This one is all about climbing up onto your neighbor’s back to succeed,” the band explain. “Most aspects of life are not a zero-sum game, but when they are, it feels ethically wrong to win.”

Elsewhere, ‘Allergy 2000’ is the album’s weighty centre-point, characterized by its soaring guitar lead line and stifled, murky vocals what might have started out as an experiment in writing a Yo La Tengo song soon comes into its own with a rabid tempo shift that feels indicative of the album’s fervent nature, never allowing the listener to rest on their laurels.

A tumultuous tale, the album is part snapshot of the band’s singular and curious perspectives but also by their surroundings in Jefferson Park, and area that is rife with inspiration. “We practice on Wednesdays, when the hyper-local Nadig Newspaper is delivered. We invariably spend the first few minutes of practice reviewing the weekly, idiotic antics of our Alderman,” the band says, while also citing “women driving cars with manual transmissions, the cult of fame and personality, and dreams of throwing your severed body parts into the ocean” as part of the album’s idiosyncratic nature.

However it finds you or you find it, Did You Get Better finds a way to take the reigns, ploughing headfirst into its journey and rarely looking back for approval, to even worry if anyone else is joining for the ride. Through its intense rushing, and the occasional moments of cessation, it showcases a band in a bold and brilliant new chapter, highlighting the power of growth and collaboration in a way that feels considerably and endearingly forthright.

bio: Tom Johnson
photo: Matt Schwerin