Bake is the family unit of Joe and Pat Baker. The exciting center of attention of these performers is that I’ve examined them as part of early Bake projects, as well as solo independents. And the main remembrance that stands out is that both are profoundly imaginative and musically instinctive when it comes to presenting fresh compositional information.
The brothers’ history is another relevant tie-in here, as they were the originators responsible for founding the industry alt darlings, The Semibeings, along with high school friend and Shoreworld alumni Keith Monacchio. The Semibeings released Sickness And Health on producer Kramer’s Shimmy Disc label (Ween, Gwar, Low, Daniel Johnston, Galaxie 500, White Zombie) and Three Pawns Standing on Seattle’s C/Z label (The Melvins, 7 Year Bitch, the legendary first grunge album Deep Six). The group was actually praised heavily by Kramer who said that Sickness And Health was among the “best five Shimmy Disc releases of all time.”
The group had an amazing run before scattering in 1999 with Monacchio and bassist Tom McDonald forming The Commons (another Shoreworld association) and the Baker boys forming Junkygood. Junkygood was produced by Ween producer and Rollins Band bassist Andrew Weiss at the Zion House Of Flesh in Hopewell, NJ. Junkygood disbanded sometime in 2004, and the brothers solidified their family bond with the formation of Bake.
I’ve had the distinguished satisfaction of reviewing Bake’s 2010 Summer Joy EP, as well as Patrick Baker’s Bird On Buffalo in 2012, and now I dig into their latest 15-song work titled The Son And The Shadow. Their bio states that this record was five years in the making and is a concept record about the topic of marriage and children. But scanning the lyrics, I also see the conflict of the inner child looking for a way to navigate adult pathways for family expectations. Predilections of DNA merged with the plight of a 20th century man collide on this complicated step into personal destiny.
The disc launches into the 1960s groove of “Fight Against The Gene.” Bass surges under acoustic down strokes and shimmering, sonar pinging electrics. Drums kick backbeat meticulously as Joe Baker falsettos into the choruses, reminding me of the Alan Clarke saga and The Hollies.
“Kill The Automaton” derides the misuse of time taken by the inaction of a culture directed to resist reasoning for themselves. “Nine to five makes me dead inside. Yet everything I want is in front of my eyes. I’ll be the dad, and you’ll be the mom, and our baby just may stop the automaton.” The song sails in on a wave of three-quarter timing featuring solidified rows of acoustic guitars that flow into raw tidal pools of mid-tempo rhythmic bliss. The Bakers stay within strict guidelines of meter, building layers of sound before peeling them back to feature Joe Baker’s vocal offerings. It should be noted that the band employs a Chinese guzheng and claims to be one of the only American rock bands to use such a tool.
Skipping around the disc, I settled on the George Harrison feel of “And You In New.” Slide work sidles up to vocal in a seamless union of melodic timbre. Pat Baker’s guitar work always has an organic, unprocessed tone, and it blends flawlessly with brother Joe’s sparse vocal magic. Bake is yet another great model of a musical alliance that appropriates dynamics over mere density.
“Exist From Nothing And Return” is an exotic foray into lush, innovative sound. Gray, melancholy and steeped in the truth of our current living condition, this is a song that attracts a distinct mindset. This is a profoundly thought-provoking glimpse into what we’ve become and also, where we might be going. As Joe Baker points out in lyric, “I can only move up if I make the other one move down. I can only swim if I make them drown. Win or lose it’s the same; I lose sight and get caught in the game.”
“Own An Atom” takes me way back to The Moody Blues and their pastel atmosphere of semi-psychedelic symmetry. “Own An Atom” bounces along in its own divergent direction. It’s not a song that follows the industry standard of verse, chorus, verse, and it doesn’t rely on hooks as much as it does on the continuing theme of the disc. I understand that when you’re doing a concept record, that continuity will fit differently than a commercially recorded 10-song platter. Having said that, I enjoyed the design and chord options used to dirge march this brooding maverick to its completion.
“Smile Reborn!” refocuses Bake in an airier positioning, spraying down the intro with a cornucopia of sound effects and hope, layered guitar notes, and vocal harmonies. “Smile Reborn!” covers the celebrations and fears of everything you and I are. The great events and the not-so-great expose themselves here. The overall message is that the light at the end of the relationship tunnel is real. There is a possible happy ending if we look for it in significant others. Simple, measured instrumentation reminds me of early Cat Stevens as well as the seasoned virtue of Seals And Crofts.
The record moves into some bizarre montages of sound effect on “Genome March.” Babies cry perpetually amongst obscure adult discourses as hand claps grow louder and louder, taking over the entire track as recorded background composites speed helplessly out of control on their approach to somewhere else. Crowds yell and roar behind the staccato tones of ever-loudening marching. This is a true cacophony as calliopes and shrieking fly across the range, roaring, bleating notes of superficial stratosphere, sirens, synthesizers, recollections of the past and more. This is a song that would make even the snobbiest Beatle fan turn their energy in this direction.
The CD goes out in a subdued grandeur, winding down into a mellow, acoustic-driven ballad the likes of something Roger Waters might climb into. Fusing vocal doubling, slide guitar and not much else, “Your Noise, Like Symphony” waltzes in on precipitous and curving levels of compositional construction. The additional guitar note magic of Patrick Baker plays like a grand piano and ties the mysterious ending together quite well.
Bake have never been a band that shies away from taking gambles. Joe and Pat Baker have obviously done this record as more of a statement and a validation of their position in their lives rather than fretting about delivering some glossy pop rock contender. The Son And The Shadow won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure. With a dark and reflective feel that looks like it would be more comfortable in a Guided By Voices catalog, The Son And The Shadow isn’t a jump around on your bed and sing-along disc. But this is an extremely pleasurable collaborative effort of people attacking the facets of our being, and it carries a message that makes you truly think. Not everyone wants to think about what’s going on in this system. The Son And The Shadow is a record that lets you know that it’s okay to take a gamble on your personal future. That it’s laudable to come out of the Matrix and experience the uncertainty of life on your own terms.
For more information on Bake and their full-length CD, The Son And The Shadow, head over to reverbnation.com/bake.