One for Friday: Antenna, “23”

I suspect there’s a tendency to always see the time when you’re following music most closely–probably those years around high school and college–as a time of particular tumult and transformation. It’s a natural side effect of close scrutiny combined with a passionate connection with the artists. Every shift in a lineup or full-on dissolution of a band is major news, like the borders of a country being redrawn after a war. The whole landscape changes, or at least that’s what it feels like. At around the time I started at the college radio station, both Husker Du and The Smiths called it quits. During my years there, the likes of The Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven, The Pixies and The Feelies recorded their final albums, at least until circumstances conspired many years later for some of them to work together again. Things feel apart, but that also meant new bands, new directions, new material.

Blake Babies weren’t one of the huge bands on college radio, but they had a fine single or two and one inspired cover that slotted nicely into any playlist. They were notable enough to gladly grab and play any new release, and when the band broke up and spun into different projects, those immediately merited attention as well. Most of that attention wound up landing on Juliana Hatfield. Her solo debut was was indeed a terrific record, but she probably also benefited from a strong association with The Lemonheads at the precise (and, it should be noted, fleeting) moment when Evan Dando’s outfit was making the task of creating great pop music look easy.

The other two-thirds of Blakes Babies–namely, guitarist John Strohm and drummer Freda Love–had their own offshoot, even if it was often overlooked. They were actually first out of the gate with their debut release. The album Sway came out in 1991, the same year tagged as the official end date of Blake Babies. The music was a nice extension of their prior band’s sounds, with a little more of an edge and little more propulsion to the songs. There’s a smart raggedness to much of the material which effectively shaves away the little bit of twee affectation that sometimes made Blake Babies records better when dispensed a song a time instead of listened to from start to finish. It was, plain and simple, a damn good record. More than any bit of genealogical fascination or dramatic backstory, that’s what we were always looking for.

Antenna, “23”

(Disclaimer: You can purchase Sway digitally, but by now we all know what a dim appraisal we have around here about using that method when it comes to properly compensating the artists. It also provides no much-needed help for the proprietor of your friendly neighborhood record store. As a physical CD, the album appears to be out of print, and the song is posted with that understanding. However, I’ll gladly remove the tune in question from my lonely outpost on the Interweb if contacted by someone with due authority who makes such a request.)