The Battle Royale “Wake Up, Thunderbabe!” Review
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Album Reviews, Music, Twin Cities.
The first release in two years from The Battle Royale combines the abundance of rock bands attempting to fuse electronic overtones into rock ‘n roll with the skill of musicians who can actually combine the two ever merging genres appropriately. The Battle Royale’s Wake Up, Thunderbabe! capitalizes on the group’s youthful fervor while scantly sounding like a band of adolescents. Savoring guitar every bit as much as its vocal foundation the album sparingly seeks compensation through electronic auxiliaries, a strange formula when considering the opposite decade-spanning trend.
Vocalist Mark Ritsema (Mouthful of Bees), bassist Grace Fiddler (One For the Team), guitarist John Pelant and organist Sam Robertson’s vision for the album is very much akin to Ritsema’s mainstay in that it finds comforting residency in modern music; there’s nothing entirely shocking nor unexpected on Thunderbabe! To call the bands music neophyte would be in callous judgment however. The album’s ability to weave group-lead choruses (three quarters of the band bearing vocal duty on the album) with full bodied synth tracks is uncanny when considering the tendency for modern groups to polarize their music.
For all the undercutting of the presence of Ritsema’s keyboards there are various tracks that weigh heavy in terms of electronic influence, sometimes to a point of casting a shroud of overproduction on the album. Not to say that such is a negative, but rather a symptom of attempting to find a balance between any instruments and the often overpowering nature of a keyboard. Plowing through Thunderbabe!’s introduction are powerful tracks such as the lead-off “Wake Me Up” and “Notebooks,” both suggesting the record to be far denser than it eventually reflects. With “Hollercopter” however the group seems to strike on what has (at least locally) been deemed electropunk, a genre that is for the majority trying and a nuisance to listen to. Almost casually however, the band plays off the sound, retracting any identification with its harsh tones as the last five of the album’s tracks neglect to include keyboards whatsoever.
“Thunderbird” sounds about a fuzzily recorded as some of the great early Alan Lomax recordings, succeeding in creating a wholesome conclusion to the album. The track echoes a warmth not unlike the feeling of sitting around a dim room, far too late into the night listening to friends play guitar as another sip of whiskey washes its way down. In conclusion, Wake Up, Thunderbabe exits with the appropriately titled “Let’s Leave.” The track is stymying in execution as its wavering violin backdrop attempts to erase from memory the first half of the record, leaving the listener purely set on remembering the band for its accessible, mellow sincerities. Wake Up, Thunderbabe! touches on the band’s influences without forcefully grasping to one above the next; in doing so The Battle Royale has created a piece of music not simply advantageous to the local scene, but adventurous and faultlessly appropriate to boot.