Review: Baby Teeth Triumphantly Returns to Carry On Regardless
Rarely has growing old sounded so goldanged catchy, but Baby Teeth‘s return to the music scene after their breakup in 2012 finds the group packaging the aches and pains of aging in a bouncy pop package of unexpected complexity that is stunningly and easily digestible.
Baby Teeth was active in the first decade of the aughts, and its members all played in numerous other groups at the time—most notably drawing members from both Bobby Conn‘s backing bands and Detholz!. The scene that spawned them was less interested in sticking to any single genre, so when bands swapped or shared members, the projects would vary wildly in sound but were all focused and genuine in their efforts. So when Baby Teeth started taking their inspiration from detail-oriented ’80s studio rock it was an odd direction for the time, but there were zero tongues implanted in any of the trio’s cheeks, as far as I could see.
Carry On Regardless, out this week, cements the Baby Teeth’s reunion as an ongoing affair, bringing back singer and keyboardist Abraham Levitan, bassist Jim Cooper, and drummer Peter Andreadis.
Of course, these days the glossy approach to pop that seemed subversive in the early aughts is now the lingua franca of mainstream indie groups, so I think we can confidently state that Baby Teeth‘s original output was perhaps a bit ahead of its time. But in the decade since the group’s break-up, time has caught up to them, their sound, and less predictably, the trio’s observations about aging. Bouts with cancer, cross-country moves, and in the band’s own words, “the joys and stresses of marriage, divorce, parenthood, and slowing metabolisms” form the fuel for most of the themes running throughout Carry On Regardless.
So when I heard the band was not only getting back together, but already had a new album ready to go, I listened with different ears than I might have approached them with during their initial run. The band’s careful three-part melodies and bubbly hooks, captured by the crisp yet playful production of Bobby Conn, all come together behind a stunningly clear lyrical approach, that is both bracing in its directness and genuine in its depth of emotion.
While the vast majority of the album’s material was written pre-pandemic, it is impossible to not see double-meanings in the lyrical themes that pop up throughout Carry On Regardless. I guess the isolation of a pandemic shares a lot in common with the interior isolation we may feel as we hit middle age? But whichever read you personally decide to apply to the work, Baby Teeth makes wallowing in complicated emotions pretty damn fun. It is worth noting that the one song on the album Levitan confirmed was actually written in direct response to the pandemic is also the one I find the most hilarious and darkly comedic: “Bleeding Edge Of The World.” If you’re looking for an unexpected take on those early days, this a good place to get it.
And while opener “Don’t Go Outside” sounds pandemic-driven, it predates that time and was primarily informed by the experience of getting older, achier, and realizing in the moment that maybe you don’t even want to be at that late-night club show waiting for the last of four bands to go on any longer. It’s this lyrical approach—being incredibly specific to opens up multiple interpretations—that allows this album to flit and fly between different reads depending on the listener. It is, as they say, a rich text.
But a rich text will fall on deaf ears if it’s not housed in an appropriate package. Some prefer to back heady thoughts with deeply serious music, but Baby Teeth specialize in writing earworms you don’t see coming and playful sophistication as their preferred delivery system. Carry On Regardless is stuffed to the gills with compositions that go down easy, will take you a long time to digest, and keep you coming back for more.
Baby Teeth celebrates the release of Carry On Regardless with a show tonight, May 5, at The Hideout. Tickets are still available.