There’s a psychiatric disorder called a mixed state. It’s when a person displays both manic and
melancholy impulses at the same time. This is often considered a dangerous point on the spectrum of
mental illness, as the contradictory moods don’t cancel each other out or land you safely in the middle.
Instead, these extreme moods join forces, enhancing the darker traits of each.
If you invert this tendency, remove it from the realm of disorder, and instead, celebrate its possibilities,
consider it as a goal, you’ll understand Grave Babies—a band whose sound might suggest the need for
drugs that stabilize mood, while creating, at the same time, a desire for ones that enhance them. Who
doesn’t want a big sound to sound bigger, a mood to be moodier, and, on occasion, pain to feel more
painful? Not to say that Grave Babies are mopes, or their music depressing or affected. Gothic, dark,
spooky, post-punk: Toss out the adjectival assault currently heaped upon bands with any hint of
feedback, somber lyrics, and the occasional gory metaphor.
A band like Grave Babies is best served by seeking out the sounds below the obvious. Danny Wahlfeldt,
the band’s founder, claims zero allegiance to the gloomy canon to which his music is often compared,
owing more of a debt to ‘90s giants Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails. And despite Grave Babies’ fuzz and
muffle, its near-metal moments, one senses a trace of a cleaner brand of pop—a flowery, even happy pop
music—scraping along the sides of their songs. On many tracks—even some of the heaviest—there’s some
jangle in the jugular and that’s where much of the tension lies, where the songs are at their most surprising and evocative. At the center of Grave Babies’ sound is the sonic equivalent of thwarted desire—or, as
they put it themselves: horrible things wrapped in hope.
Crusher is Grave Babies’ latest release on Seattle label Hardly Art. It follows a 7” (“Pleasures”) and a 12”
EP (Gothdammit). On Crusher, they take what is arguably the harder approach: doing what they’ve
always done, but doing it better. Grave Babies’ method may be the same, but their madness is multiplied.