Backyard Babies

Making Enemies Is Good

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Backyard Babies are in a pickle: too punk to partake in the brief hair metal revival of the late '90s, they were likewise too glam to hitch a ride with the vaunted Scandinavian garage rock explosion of the early 2000s. In other words, they look like Mötley Crüe's nephews and/or Good Charlotte's uncles -- you pick. Along with the equally criminally overlooked Hellacopters, the band represents something of a missing link in this Scandinavian evolutionary chain, and with little hope of a happy ending in sight, all they can do is keep rockin' on their very solid third album, 2001's Making Enemies Is Good. And how much do Backyard Babies love to rock? Let them count the ways: "One-two-three...four!," they shout through cracking opener "I Love to Roll." The remaining material isn't quite as explicit, but the message remains untainted throughout, whether they're raging through the almost unbearably bubblegum title track, plodding through the somewhat aimless "Colours," or reaching for inspired moments of pop-tastic nirvana on incredible singles like "Star War" and "The Clash." Strangely, the band's versatility is arguably also their downfall, and it's only once the album is heard in its entirety that the sheer number of familiar sonic references begin to pile up rather uncomfortably, giving rise to the question: Just who are these guys anyway? "Heaven 2.9" is pure Wildhearts, for instance; "Too Tough to Make Friends" is too Social Distortion; and the string-laden "Painkiller" is too much like Dream Police-era Cheap Trick. This realization can't take away from the honest, hard-working excellence of Making Enemies Is Good, but it does advance the doubts about Backyard Babies' eventual long-term identity. Guess listeners will just have to wait and see.

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