Outlive Your Enemies

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After an unexpected delay between releases, Babyland came back strong on its own new label, Mattress, with the brilliant Outlive. It captured the duo still slamming out some gripping electronic rage, but with a new tunefulness and drama that made them even more special than before. The opening track, "Omaha," captures this blend wonderfully, with the clattering percussion and surging synth bass meshing with one of Dan's catchiest lyrics and performances. It projects that sense of rejection of the mainstream and standing up for yourself which has driven so much of Babyland's past work, but in ways that feel quite inspirational while never sounding like U2. The immediately following "Youth Choker" might even be better, with blips and bloops sneaking through the mix over a warm synth bed crashing directly into the complex, layered percussion that is so favored by the band. Everything feels sleeker and maybe just a little more dance floor friendly. Babyland play around with a variety of sounds and approaches on Outlive, some being newer takes on older approaches -- the synth-horn driven grandeur of "Hillhurst," the frazzled protest in "Mini Mall" -- and some being relatively new for the group. The hints of drum and bass on "Safe Equals No Sound" (concluding with what can only be called a wack-ass tuba solo) and the sweet keyboard rise and wash of "Test Pilot" -- one of the gentlest things the duo has ever done even as the crisp rhythm slams forward the whole time -- capture a band remarkably unafraid to do whatever it wants. Another all-time Babyland peak surfaces here -- "Sophomore," a quietly melancholy number with textured percussion that has Dan reflecting back on an adolescent questioning that still hasn't resolved itself, slyly citing the albums of his own youth that helped get him through difficult times -- everything from the Cocteau Twins to the Human League.

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