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Shows I Saw the Last Song of at SXSW

Notes from Austin: The Baker Family – When The Internet Is Down

By: Taylor Browne
April 2, 2012

I saw The Baker Family live at the Co-op. I was sitting at the back with my friends and one of my friend’s father. He had a bad knee so the rest of us were being polite and sitting with him. The other twenty people in the room however were standing to the sidelines, smoking, and acting like they couldn’t be more bored with life the way only the most snobbish of hipsters can. This kind of clientele sadly runs rampant throughout Austin as the influx of yuppie scum increases daily.

And then The Baker Family played. The first three songs were so amazing that I thought to myself “By Jove they deserve a stand!” and my friend and I went up to the front of the stage leaving our wounded patriarch behind. Fifteen or so others thought to do the same. The Baker Family seemed very happy with this turn of events and laid into their next song. It was excellent and just as incendiary as the last three. I applauded loudly and when I turned I was shocked to find the entire room had filled up behind me with up to fifty people. The Baker Family played the rest of their kickass set to a full house. Not even hipsters could resist the danceable, aggressive, intelligently complex yet accessible sounds of The Baker Family.

The Austin based folk/electronic/rock band is hard to pin down stylistically. They have very clear influences from Liars and Radiohead, both of which are immensely multi-faceted when it comes to their ‘style’ or ‘sound’. And while many bands would be more than satisfied with following the path laid out by such complex bands, The Baker Family never seems to be satisfied with just one approach to their songs.

The strongest track on their EP When The Internet Is Down is hands down Matriarch. The tune is danceable while simultaneously being fantastically complex. The rhythm (very Sonic Youth in style at times) has a steady disco bass drum hit while the rest of the rhythm (half of which is played on a metal keg) plays with the upbeat. I want to marry their bassist. The synth tone is similarly godly; for some reason it makes me feel like I’m in a spy film and I’m driving at very high speeds. The lyrics are given in a biting and desperate tone (the line “her hands came upon me” has an almost tongue and cheek ring).

And for a moment you think you know what The Baker Family is about. But then they pull the damn carpet out from under you with the next track Paper Moon. In its darkest moments the song is melancholic and expresses uncertainty, but this is as dark as the song goes. Acoustic guitars, cute synth touches, and banjo all give the tune an uplifting feel. The last song Channelled Control takes a lot of influence from Joy Division and early New Order and succeeds in giving the EP a hopeful and cathartic ending (the song Ceremony comes to mind). The EP is solid and even in its weaker moments entices the listener forward. When the last song played I waited patiently for the next one but it didn’t come. I want more and so will you.

I’ve heard the group has another EP coming out soon. This is one of the best acts around in Austin. It would be unfortunate not to pay attention.

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