Babybird/Stephen Jones: opinions?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by manicpopthrill, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    Thinking about diving into this guy's discography, but I can see his work is pretty polarizing. Should I start with the early lo-fi stuff? What about post-Babybird? Has he really changed 'band' names with each new release?
     
  2. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Mostly crap. Wouldn't even bother.
     
  3. Etienne Hanratty

    Etienne Hanratty Forum Resident

    Location:
    uk
    Didn’t know he was still a thing. I couldn’t stand him in the nineties. His lyrics might’ve hidden subversive depths but the music was still stodgy britpop. Oddly, I’d probably quite like him now.
     
  4. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    Wow, you really think he's that bad?

    edit: I have to admit I'm kind of enjoying his debut, but that's all I've heard
     
  5. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    perth Australia
    In the days when Live365 was a thing, I used to listen to progressive rock stations. I heard a few Babybird tracks and thought they were pretty ordinary (and not particularly progressive). Then I heard "You're gorgeous" on the radio and thought "Nope, that's not for me".
     
  6. StevenC

    StevenC SUEDE > Both Oasis AND Blur.

    I love the album “Ugly Beautiful”. Start there. Before you value someone’s negative opinion, try streaming “Goodnight” to see if you’d like it... but I love that album.. 9/10 for me
     
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  7. Tony L

    Tony L Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    I really like the first four Baby Bird albums he recorded on a cassette 4-track in his bedsit whilst on the dole (he recorded more than 400 songs IIRC), they have a wonderfully naive yet twisted quality to them. I thought the polished band versions lost much of the charm.
     
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  8. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    That kind of diy bedroom pop stuff is one of my favorite styles of music, but after finally scoring those early cassettes, I was disappointed to discover that he's ****. No melodic gifts to speak of, his lyrics are about 90% less clever than he thinks they are, and he can't sing. Threw out the tapes a few years later rather than bother to pack them for a move and haven't missed them one bit.

    Your milage may vary, of course.
     
  9. StevenC

    StevenC SUEDE > Both Oasis AND Blur.

    This was a rarity in the US, but found his "Ugly Beautiful" album on vinyl the other day for only $15. It's in near mint shape but is valued at way more because they didn't make much vinyl in the year it came out and was only made in the UK... I was so happy.
     
  10. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Machine wrapped in butter.

    Location:
    London, England
    First two band albums (which are by Babybird instead of Baby Bird) are truly excellent, like Jones was finally able to get those years of his home recordings fully realised - There’s Something Going On is really overlooked. The home recording albums have a lot of value if you like quirky lo-fi and misanthropic humour, but are mostly a difficult listen. I gave up after the second band album as Bugged was awful, though I did get the mini-soundtrack CDs credited to Stephen Jones (1985-2001 and Plastic Tablets) and they’re pretty cool (and well designed).

    There’s a super-cheap six CD box of the home-made albums that might be a good jumping off point:
    Baby Bird - Original Lo-Fi
     
  11. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    So, Ugly Beautiful, and There's Something Going On are the first band albums?
     
  12. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Machine wrapped in butter.

    Location:
    London, England
    Yup. Ugly Beautiful includes the UK hit/millstone of ‘You’re Gorgeous’ which is unfortunately going to be Stephen Jones’ legacy.

    There were five home-recorded albums before that which all came out in 1995.

    I Was Born A Man
    Bad Shave
    Fatherhood
    The Happiest Man Alive
    Dying Happy

    You’d really only need one of these as a sampler (I’d say Bad Shave is the pick, but none are essential by any means), and even then a few of the songs were re-recorded as full-band arrangements.

    After There’s Something Going On, the band was pared down from a five-piece to a duo (Jones and guitarist Luke Scott), and the songs became less interesting.

    Edit: seems that keyboard player Huw Chadbourn died last year.
     
  13. normanr

    normanr Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London, UK
  14. Buddy>Elvis

    Buddy>Elvis Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    I've only heard Ugly Beautiful and played it a lot back in the day and think it's a great album. Obviously cannot comment on his other stuff.
     
  15. ottosander

    ottosander Active Member

    I think he is one of the most underrated songwriters ever, although it is not always an "easy" listening experience. "There is something going on" is his masterpiece in my opinion, but even his later work always contain some real gems. If you see how much he has released it is impossible not to have a varying rate of fillers or bad songs. You can check out his latest output on bandcamp, where he released several albums (under Babybird , Stephen Jones or other names), mostly digital, some in physical form and stream the music to make up your own opinion. And the concert -cd from his comeback-tour is really good. Not to mention all the great b-sides he has released earlier in his career when he was backed by a record company.
    stephen jones
     
  16. StevenC

    StevenC SUEDE > Both Oasis AND Blur.

    Here is a good summary considering all that I’ve read above + what I know for having lived through it:

    1. BabyBird had a lot of music that many people loved in 1994-1996. Many people that had blur, pulp and elastica records also liked BabyBird.
    2. A few songs were moderately popular at the time. I’m American and so we haven’t paid attention to chart positions since 1987, so I cannot speak to how they charted, but You’re Gorgeous, Candy Girl, Goodnight and Cornershop were largely liked by many of the fans I listed above.
    3. The fans who liked it back then may still like it now (I’m one of them), but you sort of had to be there. It’s very tough to recommmend Candy Girl and You’re Gorgeous to a first time listener in 2018.
    4. His earliest, less polished recordings should be listened to along with his albums so you get the complete picture.
    5. What the F*** is he touring for in 2018? It’s not like he is suede - who are still fantastic and on an ongoing comeback. He should be so grateful that anyone turned up.
     
  17. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    ....and I thought his "normal" discography was confusing enough....:help:

    I'd have to devote the rest of the year to go through it all.
     
  18. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    According to the article posted by @normanr Jones had a brush with the reaper himself.
     
  19. ottosander

    ottosander Active Member

    Yes it is quite confusing but worth digging into it....Been a fan back then and still a fan at least of his output as Babybird....
     
  20. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    For the time being I'm going to pretend I didn't see the bandcamp page, and stick with his 80s/90s stuff.
     
  21. Tony L

    Tony L Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    I realised I have a pic of the first five albums in their original CD form from another thread somewhere:

    [​IMG]

    I’ve got a promo booklet that highlights the back-story etc somewhere too.
     
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  22. van1

    van1 Forum Resident

    Ouch! It's really hard to respect such a negative opinion. Why come to a thread about an artist and just be negative?

    There are many band I don't like or don't 'get' but I see that as an issue with me, not the artist, maybe I'm not the target market or I'm not in a position to appreciate it. I don't go to free jazz posts and piss all over them because its not to my liking...

    Anyway, I really like everything up to ugly beautiful. After listening to ugly beautifully I would suggest the 4 track cd singles which largely were b-sides and not earlier tracks, then try his ironically titled US debut 'greatest hits' which culls his bed sit recordings to a 2 cd set. If you like those try his lofi 6 cd set.

    I also have his first soundtracks set
     
  23. RichC

    RichC Forum Resident

    I used to peruse Q back in the day when I worked at a record store, and it was fascinating to read about these up-and-coming bands without actually being able to HEAR a note of their music. (Ah, the pre-YouTube/Spotify/global music listening days.) Baby Bird was one of them. The back story was so intriguing (struggling songwriter starts releasing his home demos as limited EPs of 1000 copies each, they sell out immediately, bidding war ensues) I was sure the music wouldn't live up to the hype. And yet....

    The first thing I ever heard was the U.S. release "The Greatest Hits," which is probably still the best casual introduction to his stuff:
    Baby Bird - The Greatest Hits

    You wanna talk about an introduction? The first track is entitled "G****n It You're A Kid" and the chorus is "F*** you Father Christmas." It's hilarious in a black comedy way. The second track is "Man's Tight Vest" and Jones is singing about gender swapping... in 1995. The third track "KW Jesus TV Roof Appeal" opens with a message from "Dave Christ, the brother Jesus forgot" and gets more blasphemous from there.

    So yeah, I was hooked.

    That said, his early demos are hit-or-miss at times, and the production is lousy even by 90s standards. You'll have to be OK with songs consisting of Casio drum machines, electric guitars plugged straight into the console, and vocals recorded through cheap FX boxes. The good stuff sparkles though, like diamonds in dirt.
    The "official" albums were a massive letdown to me. All the character in the cassette demos got drained away and replaced with by-the-numbers Britpop. I guess that's why he had a big hit with "You're Gorgeous," since it was the prevailing trend at the time, but compare the original 1991 demo (which isn't even on the original albums, but the B-side of "Cornershop") with the hit version. The demo is dark and melancholy and it's obviously sung from the perspective of a young female being sexually manipulated by an older creep. The hit version.... is all shiny and sparkly and you'd never have a clue how ugly the lyrics really are. (Which I guess is... subversive??)

    Anyway. I got off the boat once I heard the Britpop band renditions of these songs I'd previously enjoyed. But I still play the original CDs from time to time. I might have to check out There's Something Goin On now... I always assumed that was another band effort but I guess I was wrong....
     
  24. manicpopthrill

    manicpopthrill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Kansas
    I don't recall ever hearing "You're Gorgeous" here in the States, so it doesn't really have any baggage attached to it from my perspective. It is rather perverse that apparently millions missed what is going on in that song, and that it was supposedly often used as a wedding dance number at the time. So, if Jones was looking to prank the masses, he succeeded. I'll have to seek out that demo version you mentioned.
     
  25. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Machine wrapped in butter.

    Location:
    London, England
    It's either 'You're Gorgeous' or 'Cornershop', but one of the original demos (released as a B-side) is basically a tinpot rip-off of 'Walking On Sunshine' by Katrina & The Waves.

    EDIT: it's 'Cornershop'. Haven't heard this in 20-odd years.

     

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