The Only Ones

Baby's Got a Gun

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In many respects, the Only Ones had been swimming against the current ever since they started playing out in 1977, and the wear was finally beginning to show by the time they cut their third album, 1980's Baby's Got a Gun. After Even Serpents Shine failed to sell to expectations, CBS put the Only Ones in the studio with producer Colin Thurston, best known for his work with the likes of Duran Duran, the Human League, and Bow Wow Wow; Thurston was clearly aiming to push the pop angles of Peter Perrett's melodies into the forefront, and while to some degree he succeeded, the amiably sleazy rock & roll edge of their first two albums was blunted on this set, and Perrett and John Perry's guitars don't have the same impact here. The quality of the songwriting on Baby's Got a Gun, while still strong, is not up to the level of the first two albums, and significantly, the Only Ones recorded their only cover for this LP ("Fools," a hit for country singer Johnny Duncan, with Perrett dueting quite wonderfully with Pauline Murray of Penetration). And while Perrett was still singing and writing well, the drug addiction that would haunt him for years was catching up with him during these sessions, and Baby's Got a Gun lacks some of the focus and energy of their earlier work. Baby's Got a Gun is clearly the weakest of the Only Ones' three original albums, but for all its faults there's plenty here that testifies to the band's strengths; "Why Don't You Kill Yourself," "Strange Mouth," and "The Big Sleep" are splendid songs that show the band still had the goods, and "Trouble in the World" and "The Happy Pilgrim" confirm they could reach for a poppier sound without losing their personality in the process. The Only Ones broke up a year after Baby's Got a Gun came out, but if it captured the sound of a band in decline, you can barely tell unless you're looking for the seams.

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