PREMIERE: Baby Jesus (Self-Titled)

Amanda Stern

Baby Jesus, a five-piece psychedelic garage punk act from Sweden, are releasing their self-titled debut today on Ongakubaka Records—as a person preternaturally drawn to spare, lyric-driven singer-songwriters, I can't tell whether I'm the wrong or exactly the right person to talk about it. Not knowing what to expect upon receiving my copy I gamely, and without hesitation, sat down to listen. Imagine my horror, then, when I pressed play and was immediately blasted in the face with the explosive saw-tooth of noise that is the opener, “Nothing’s For Me."

My dog sat up on her haunches and we looked at each other, alarmed. Three seconds later, I felt a strange sensation coming from my head—was I bleeding? No, something else was happening to me. Was I...bobbing? Yes, I was bobbing (!), and rhythmically, in time to a chord progression I recognized, embedded in a masterful fusion of genres and references. Sensing no danger, my dog plopped back down and we rode out the album together becoming, ten tracks later, quite possibly the world's most unlikely advocates of psychedelic garage punk. No, scratch that. Of Baby Jesus.

Consisting of five grade-school friends now in their twenties, Baby Jesus plays with the assuredness of musicians twice their age, and they’ve created some of the most controlled and glorious noise compositions I’ve ever heard. The nods and allusions to eras past don’t feel like mere winks or asidesrather, one hears a lifetime of passionate listening and devotion to music in its purest forms. There’s atmospheric range in every track, calling up improbable source material: the Beatles, the Doors, Nirvana, the Ramones, the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, Sal Mineo’s pouty mouth, and Gidget, watching a surf competition on the beach. Despite all these various impressions, though, this isn’t a derivative album. It’s purposeful and articulate, a beautiful homage to heroes harnessed through a unique and original sound.

Recorded live in one night, which is hard to believe given their cohesion and control, the band's exuberance and onstage vivacity is immediately apparent. The album’s first eight tracks blast and flow easily into one another, occasionally sounding like alternate versions of the same song. That consistency is maintained until the last two cuts, the most psychedelic, which take a slow and soft turn and signal the listener to begin winding down. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded a more even distribution of range from one song to the next.

But the songs aren’t the only compositions here. The album itself will be available on a cassette which has been dipped in high-quality (but sadly not real) gold. The band brought in their good friend Olle Soderlund to design the album art, and the entire package has a limited-edition feel to it. It's something that would look good in a collection, regardless of your musical taste. This just goes to show that Baby Jesus does indeed live by their glorious motto, one all artists should strongly heed: “It’s not a hobby.”


In addition to the cassette and digital copies of the album, Baby Jesus will also be releasing a vinyl LP on San Antonio's Yippee Ki Yay Records in late June.