Frank's Lament [EP]
(2019 - Melodic Revolution Records - USA)
British band's finest extended play release yet, and this among several great ones, reveals another layer of their raw emotional messages and rich varied progressive music. Babal's work has a lot of life and good energy in it. This is part 2c of 'The Circle of Confusion of Tongues' trilogy. A full album is coming in 2020 as part 3. If you are new to this group, this is a great place to get a feel for the whole package.
From the beginning, Rob Williams (guitars, synthesis) and Karen Langley (vocals, arrangements) have produced a world perspective of intimate thoughts and reality that many others would like to speak out too but don't. So many sheep, millions full of fear, but not Babal. Styles have ranged from punkish dance, tribal avant-garde, progressive rock brilliance, and psychedelic fusions. With 'Frank's Lament', Williams and Langley deliver a more potent and partly meditative atmosphere than ever. Reflective of not one but both members confrontation with cancer, and the invasive formulas for treatment. Speaking of former demons, life experiences and advice, the songs melt your heart and speak deeply to your soul. The pair have done so much to inform, expose, and attempt to change the ills of the earth, yet with no error of their own, watched a world just dig its own grave deeper and sooner.
Frustration runs over the lips from Karen, on this beautifully written and delivered EP. Each time I put on one of their recordings I instantly feel a kinship, my doorbell rings, and I get a kick in the seat of my pants. I've rarely identified so exactly with a band. If I had any last statement to say about Babal (including their faithful drummer Jon Sharp) and present guest Zole Green (synthesizers on 'The Axe'), it would be that they were true to their art, honest to the bone, and far more important than the world ever gave them credit for.
The last track (a live recording of 'Endless Re-Run Society', featuring additional musicians Paul Smith - bass/ and Eric Hej - percussion ) is as vibrant and biting as anything they ever did. It is taken from the Bread and Circuses Tour in 2013. To catch them live in action, see the Bandcamp link I provided at top, under the 'Bread-Circuses' DVD. It is dead honest truth and a perfect example of who Babal are, and why they exist. That tune and 'Bones & Blood' (Rise Up) were to be released as a single back in 2016, however it did not happen. Williams reworked the music for 'Bones & Blood' for this official release. Rob said this song was based on Tolpuddle Martyrs, ["they were a group of six agricultural labourers in the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, England, who were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in 1834. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were arrested on a legal technicality during a labour dispute against decreasing wages before being convicted in R V Lovelass and Others and sentenced to penal transportation to Australia. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were pardoned in 1836 after mass protests by sympathizers and support from Lord John Russell, returning to England between 1837 to 1839." - Wikipedia reference]. Of course, this theme runs hot and heavy in today's society, so the concept is as sadly modern as it is old.
'The Axe' was written as a 'dark medieval folk tale brought to the future' said Rob. The title track ('Frank's Lament') is a piece that is partial autobiographical of Williams, and lyrics were written by Langley speaking about who he was when she first met him. As Williams describes it "Frank finds he has one foot in the real world and his head floating in the ether. He has put the ladder against the wall and is ready to climb over the top to salvation. He does make it but many of us cannot scale that wall - "fear of freedom." I was told the name 'Frank' was not specific to any particular reference except just a name chosen to represent Rob in this song. Williams does not play any actual keyboards on the album, although you will hear what certainly sounds like it. Instead he plays all that using a Roland GR55 and a Boss SY 300, creating via guitar synths. As mentioned, Zole Green plays the only keyboards on the disc, only on 'The Axe'.
I have huge respect for the two main members Karen Langley and Rob Williams, and cannot think of another pair of musicians/people who not only give unselfishly so much, but have a courage in the face of evil, greed, and disease, that only giants possess. They are the real deal and are not afraid to speak their minds and name names. We need more people like this! Beautiful glossy gatefold vinyl or compact disc package is available with booklet. Art and photos top notch. TOTALLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 12 - 22 - 2019