Managing to persistently sound familiar and simultaneously unique, primarily down to having developed a one of a kind vivacious sound, UK indie popsters Hentai Babies have been one of the most criminally ignored bands in the British rock scene. Well that is not entirely true as the duo from the Isle of Wight has forged an increasingly devoured live presence and found a flood of radio play with independent radio shows and station, with Reputation Radio leading the way. National awareness it is fair to say has not yet been breached though, despite a host of ridiculously contagious and creatively blistering singles. That may all change now with the release of the band’s debut album YO!, a mouth-watering devilment which sooner than it takes a door knocking Jehovah Witness to clear a lively street, has body and emotions involved in one exhausting and exhilarating stomp.
Formed in 2012 and consisting of vocalist/guitarist/ programmer Paul McCann and bassist Bianca Kelly, Hentai Babies create pop rock with an inescapable addictiveness. Once infested by their sounds there is no escape, it is just getting their jangle into the psyche of the masses which, as all emerging bands find, is the hard part. YO! might and should be that trigger, the spark to widespread recognition for a band and sound which draws on inspirations from the likes of Nirvana, Oasis, Michael Jackson, Smashing Pumpkins, Perfume, Manic Street Preachers, Madonna, and Weezer for their invention, though it is only the latter you would really offer as some kind of reference to the originality of their songs.
The contagious party of YO! starts with Action Jackson, and an instant union of guitar jangles and expressive vocals which have ears and appetite on instant alert. Riffs and rhythms provide a pungent lure from the start too, the basslines of Kelly as throaty as they are seductive, whilst the crisp electronic beats simply match the voracious energy of the song. Punk, pop, indie, it is all in the slice of magnetic rock ‘n’ roll and there is no way anyone will have dormant feet or unused vocal chords by the end of the song. That is a reaction to expect from every song on the album, Canary Into The Cave proving the point straight after. It does have a more reigned in exertion compared to its predecessor, but in sound and enterprise it is just as tenacious and anthemic, and subsequently successful in fully involving the listener physically and emotionally. Hooks and melodies have a spicy tang to their infectious clamour too whilst vocally the band simply stirs up song and ears from start to finish.
Hentai Babies has a busy sound which as shown in the last song, at times can hide some of the great twists and nuances working a way in songs. The second track provides a whimsical kiss of keys from within its depths but easy to miss as you leap around to the call of the encounter. It is not an issue or flaw but something extra to discover over subsequent plays, not that you are ever given a moment to take a breath with Yo!, the following One Potato Two quickly jabbing with an initial tease of guitar and punchy beats provided by guest drummer Rían O’Gandhi, before opening up into another full-on stroll coloured by a swaggering bassline and the ever alluring vocals. Lyrically repetition plays a big part of songs which might not work as well for some as others across a whole album, but it definitely only reinforces the anthemic quality of songs and makes them even easier to join in on, much to the neighbour’s annoyance admittedly.
Pop Is My Prozac comes next and despite its title actually has body and psyche even more agitated even with its gentler persuasion. No one told the hooks and infectiousness of the song to take it easy on the listener and again by its close the temptress of a song has you gasping for air before Something Uncomfortable strolls in. It also has a mellower presence then plenty of those around it but with a thick rock roar and sinew crafted rhythms to it, the song provides a fresh melodic blaze to the variety to the album.
US band Super Happy Fun Club come to mind with Sports Jerk which follows; a bounding romp of a song with a hook which spirals like a pole dancer around the appetite, whilst the following Harmony swerves and flirts with it grooves and spicy melodies for the same epidemic effect. Both tracks are newer ones in the imagination of McCann’s songwriting and explore new twists of sound and texture, whilst unearthing an even juicier form of the discord which always lights up their songs.
A swift leap at ears, Bubblegum offers no polite introduction as it explodes in a blur of energy and sonic contagion. Hooks grin and riffs bristle as the punk infested song aggressively bounces around as if carrying ADHD, whilst vocally the band finds their most raucous persuasion yet. It is another leaving exhaustion in its wake though for maybe the only time, the band allows some respite from its energetic tempest with Nail On The Head. A dark flirty bassline comes wrapped in surf rock seeded melodies whilst the vocals also show some reserve in their delivery. A sixties rock pop hue emerges to embrace the enterprise of the guitar, and at one point the image of Freddie and The Dreamers swinging their deranged legs along to the song does came to mind.
Everything feistily erupts again with Super Sad, a song also opening with a big hook which has seeds in the pop of earlier decades. Addiction is a given with YO! and it shows no mercy here; vocally and musically the track an insatiable dance of pop punk ingenuity, quickly matched by the sonic and vocal croon of Sober As A Judge. The diversity of the album never diminishes as each song makes its offering, the penultimate incitement embracing a melancholic and reflective sentiment with matching melodic understanding.
Hentai Babies leave on one final bang in the rowdy shape of Go Fish. The song is a predator, riffs and bassline almost carnivorous whilst the beats sting on impact. Vocally too there is an attitude which snarls with every syllable yet that constant instinct inside the band to brew an epidemic riot of fun and body manipulation is an unavoidable temptation. The song is punk rock at its most boisterously infectious and a seismic end to a quite exhilarating album.
If after YO! Hentai Babies is still an unknown quantity then the nation is deaf, blind, or stupid. For us in the know though nothing changes, the band still remains one of the best unsung talents in the British music scene and equally one of the most exciting.
YO! is out now as a name your own price download @ https://hentaibabies.bandcamp.com/album/yo
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