I must admit that when I first received an advance copy of Baby Bird's Ugly Beautiful, snap judgment got the best of me.
I took one look at the album title, the song list ("Jesus is My Girlfriend," "Atomic Soda," "Too Handsome to be Homeless") and the gross-out-chic promo photo of said Baby holding a gun to his head and thought, "Pretentious grunge-boy does good with record deal. Blah, blah, blah."
While watching my daily Christmas break dose of the show everyone loves to hate, MTV's 12 Angry Viewers, I happened upon a video by this strange little Bird for a song entitled, "You're Gorgeous." It was a jarring surprise to realize I actually liked this song.
Amidst the slow-mo shots and falling cars was a pretty good song. It was melodic, campy and heartfelt - a rare combination, but one held together by Baby Bird's (aka Stephen Jones) dryly humorous delivery.
The song seems to center on a gorgeous, naive hustler of sorts, as Baby Bird sings, "You said I wasn't cheap/You paid me 20 pounds/You promised to put me in a magazine/On every table in every lounge."
After that quirky introduction, I was sold on giving the album a listen.
Baby Bird's style and approach hearken back to the sounds of the early Cure, Flock of Seagulls and other '80s wasteaways.
There's that sort of murky, underwater guitar sound, the low-pitched delivery and hurtful-love lyrics. There's something about the way it all comes together, though, that gives it a definite contemporary kick.
"Goodnight" is instantly listenable fodder, and Baby Bird's delivery is part Bono, part Austin Powers, part cheeky lounge singer.
There's real musicianship going on here though that keeps Ugly Beautiful from being a completely kitschy affair.
"Candy Girl" bops along a jangly beat and "doo-doo-doo" chorus, while "Jesus is My Girlfriend" glides on a trip-hoppy groove.
Ugly Beautiful isn't earth-shattering sounds, but it is a nice break from the musical new year drought.