Dusted Reviews

Baroness - Yellow and Green

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Baroness

Album: Yellow and Green

Label: Relapse

Review date: Jul. 9, 2012

Certain folks always want their favorite (or at least well-liked) bands to adhere unswervingly to the style of their favorite album or from that earliest point in the band’s career when only 50 people knew who they were and they made no money. This is the case for many of the formerly sludge metal bands to emerge from Savannah, Georgia, in the last 10 years, none more so than the quartet Baroness, who have changed the most of their peers.

After a down and dirty pair of EPs, the band (currently spread up and down the East Coast) began to emerge from the proverbial chrysalis with The Red Album, which earned the enmity of metalheads everywhere for its dalliance with sunny melody and its southern-fried licks. They went even further with The Blue Album, a suite heavy on conceptual continuity and committed to its own refrains. This listener was on board for both albums, finding much to like in their combination of weight and wistfulness. Even some of the melodies were borderline anthemic, their charm achieved through what sounded like attempts to break free of the sonic morass. And twin guitar harmonies? Sure, I like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden just fine.

Now comes the band’s Relapse swan song, Yellow and Green. It’s what once would have been a double-gatefold LP (a format which likely exists for this release if you’re of interest), with nine tunes on the Yellow record and the Green, each with its own “Theme” to start things off (though not nearly as deftly woven in as on its predecessor). Throughout this often incoherent hodgepodge of tunes, Baroness has mostly abandoned the contrast that made its previous records work so well. This leaves the melodic bits and clean vocals somewhat more unvarnished – and this doesn’t do them any particular favors, as guitarist and vocalist John Baizley’s instrument isn’t the strongest and the melodies are often pretty repetitive (even in what is admittedly a pretty wide range of settings, from attempted plainsong to genuine crunch). It’s not as if Baroness have gone full-on pop in the manner of Hall and Oates; but you could make a fair case that there’s a healthy dose of The Eagles and others of their ilk here. There are still some bona fide, recognizable riffs, some thudding drums, and all that good stuff. But one listen to the charging beachfront singalong “Take My Bones Away” shows that they don’t have quite the instinct for hooks that, say, Torche has and a harmonic range that often obsessively returns to major thirds and fourths.

So it begins. And the journey is a long and not very satisfying ones, as “Bones” turns out to be one of the better tracks. As Yellow slogs forward past “March to the Sea,” it soon becomes apparent that Baroness may have been spending some time with early Gary Numan or Berlin-era Bowie, as there’s an occasional frost to the production and a consistent (usually unimaginative) use of electronics. For example, the buzzing swarms of “Twinkler” can’t prevent the pan pipes and finger-style guitar from conjuring a full-on Jethro Tull moment. And while the finger-style anthem “Stretchmarker” isn’t offensive, the modest electronica bathing it sounds either perfunctory or throwaway. I also couldn’t quite figure out what the group was going for with tunes like: the mournful “Eula” (which seems to aspire to the bitter resolution of a Radiohead ballad); the stiff off-rhythms and sub-Mastodon arpeggios on “Back Where I Belong” (which genuinely flashes on “Hotel California” for a few moments); or the disconnected folkish “Mtns.” and “Foolsong” (“Psalms Alive” is almost unlistenable).

Thankfully there’s some good here as well. The “Green Theme” is among the more stirring and lyrical pieces on this album, and maybe its best track. In terms of the more heavy, hooky pieces (and in fairness, the band still brings some crunch), the best is “Board Up the House,” which nods to the path Torche has been taking these past few years. And I enjoyed the transition from the shouting “The Line Between” to the elegiac closer “If I Forget Thee Lowcountry.”

It’s tough being so critical on a band that’s so obviously committed to their own musical integrity, and Yellow and Green certainly doesn’t fall flat simply because it’s not a conventional “metal” album. It’s because the songs mostly aren’t very good. Baroness are probably sick of comparisons to classic rock acts, and slams for their songwriting variations; but even though one can be impressed in the abstract by varied songwriting, the whole thing just feels bloated and directionless. As the man once wrote, it’s no sin for one’s reach to exceed one’s grasp. But we’re a long way from heaven here.

By Jason Bivins

Other Reviews of Baroness

The Red Album

Blue Record

Read More

View all articles by Jason Bivins

Find out more about Relapse

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.