Don Babylon’s new album Foul is a ten song studio effort that pulls from the band’s life since their debut Babe scored so well with indie rock audiences. The unabashed autobiographical nature of the material links up well with the band’s guitar-centric attack, but Leland Bickford’s bass and drummer David Gaither give a five star low end for the album forming the foundation of the ten songs. “Lose Sometimes” sweeps listeners into the band’s point of view and it’s immediately noticeable how Aubrey Neeley’s lyrics, strong with storytelling aspects but no walk in the park, are smoothed out by the restless rock aimed style they employ over the course of the album. Some might say the song has a practical point of view and, to an extent, that’s true. Foul is full of hard won wisdom that comes through in many ways.
“Line Cook Blues” will strike a chord for anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry, but it’s definitely in keeping with the personal touch running throughout the entirety of the collection. There’s definitely ample humor, though dark, running through the song and it has a wonderfully loopy take on blues/alternative country without ever veering too deeply into that style. “Mach III” has a relentless pace but never rushes things. It’s a throwback tune in some ways as it harkens back to the sound of early guitar driven New Wave rock/post punk acts while still retaining the band’s identity. Neeley’s biting rhythm guitar bursts into lead flourishes throughout the album, but this is a much more tightly controlled tune and his six string work keeps its head down throughout this tune and bears down on the tempo with unrelenting focus. There’s an extended dissonant guitar break near the end of the song that sets up its energetic conclusion.
One of the centerpiece songs on Foul, “Hopeless Man” has such outstanding qualities in its arrangement and sound listeners may miss out on another sharp lyric that avoids clichés and hits its mark with a memorable characterization of the song’s subject. It’s one of the primary factors separating the band’s songwriting from many bands working in the same vein – Don Babylon brings intelligent songwriting and hard-charging rock music together in a potent brew. The album’s most impressive roll continues with the song “Rocky XXVII”, or “Rocky 27” for those challenged by Roman numerals, and it’s probably the most straight-forward personal song included on Foul and has smart, hard-hitting playing throughout. The album’s finale “Started a Band” is similarly grounded in the band’s life and mixes a hint of weariness along with the obvious love Neeley and his band mates possess for writing, performing, and rock music in general. It’s an on point conclusion for Foul and perfectly chosen for the release. It’s a final example of the forethought they’ve put into this sophomore effort. The band has said, their tongue only slightly in cheek, that they hope future albums will be less about being broke and struggling, but there’s no doubt their hard times have made for a bracing listen.