Baby steps on the way to church
Baby Grande 1975-77 - Baby Grande (Hozac Archival)
The Brits call it Junk Shop Glam and the name’s derived from the piles of often obscure, sometimes quirky and lost ‘70s glam singles that littered their second-hand shops decades ago and now fetch crazy, collector scum prices. RPM/Cherry Red did a stellar job of bringing much of it to life on their “All The Young Droogs” compilation.
It’s as good a label as any for Baby Grande, the band in which future founders of The Church, Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes, cut their teeth in the mid’-70s. Chicago label Hozac Archival has exhumed a tape of studio sessions from somebody’s sock drawer and issued it as an LP.
Kilbey was the singer and wrote the songs and was finding his feet on both counts. Koppes appears on only three tracks (“Getting Away With Murder”, “Put You On My Wall” and “You’re So Continental”) with Dave Scotland handling guitar throughout.
Baby Grande was crude glam rock. Very rough round the edges and many Beatle boot steps removed from paisley and patchouli. The band came from Australia’s capital city, Canberra, which was a rock and roll wasteland. To make it in Canberra, you had to drive to Sydney. There was a defiant Canberra underground scene but Baby Grande wasn’t part of it. These boys had stars in their eyes; the10 tracks on their posthumous album were recorded in Canberra and Sydney for an EMI contract that never materialised.
So here’s the thing: If “Baby Grande 1975-77” had no connection to The Church would anyone buy it? If it had no connection to The Church would a label have issued it? The answer is: Probably no, on both counts.
“Baby Grande” has its share of awkward moments and half-realised ideas. It’s clunky - but does has some awkward charm. The songs are under-developed and it’s not a coherent “album”. To be fair, it’s not meant to be. Judged on its merits, it’s interesting if not essential.
“Zephyr” is a strong rocker with cringe-worthy lyrics. Dave Scotland’s muscular lines make opener “Pure White and Deadly” work as a meat-and-potatoes rocker. “Going There and Back” is hackneyed hard rock that manages to reference Mott the Hoople. Mott is a valid reference point - circa “Brain Capers” when they were still to blossom. “As Above and So Below” has a strong whiff of Bowie fandom about it. “She Thinks She’s a Diamond” lyrically hints of what lies down the track - but with some godawful synth jammed somewhere it doesn’t belong.
The alternative version of “Pure, White & Deadly” does rock regally with a dirty lead break ripping it wide open and some intriguing lyrical ambiguity maintaining the interest. It has shades of the original Alice Cooper group and would made a killer 45. The second version of “Madam Lash” would have sat just fine as its B side with some meandering lead guitar. Both tracks are head-and-shoulders the best things here.
The liners are hilarious with Scotland and Kilbey trading answers with the label, presumably via email. Klibey’s curt responses border so obviously on the dismissive that you have to wonder if he really wanted the songs to be out there. May he was asked in an unguaded moment (ouch.)