The Battle Royale - Wake Up, Thunderbabe
Record Label: Afternoon Records
Release Date: January 8, 2008
In 2008, a movie was released that shattered and redefined its genre. This movie was The Dark Knight. A prominent villain in that movie was “Two Face” a.k.a Harvey Dent. Dent was characterized by two vastly different personalities, starting out good in the beginning, but turning out bad in the end. The Battle Royale is very similar to Harvey Dent, except this group transitions from somewhat OK to extremely, jaw droppingly good over the course of the record.
The Battle Royale is quite possibly one of the most confused bands today. They can't seem to decide on their ideal sound, and therefore split Wake Up, Thunderbabe into two distinct halves. The first half is very driven by electronics and bass, giving the much overplayed synth sound a funk makeover. The second half is filled with enough acoustic guitars and harmonicas to invoke a second witty comment/analogy on my part in reference to the band’s two vastly different sounds. Too bad I’m not clever enough to do so.
The first half of the album tends to be borderline good, but many of the tracks fall just short of the mark due to the vocals. Usually with synth sounds, the voice should be Auto Tuned or at the very least worked on to go smoothly. In this band’s case, they chose for raw vocals to make it through. This experiment does not quite work, and it gives the first few songs a failed “FTSK-meets-vocals of Death Cab for Cutie” vibe. Despite the evident faults, bassist Grace Fiddler’s expert playing and sweet backup vocals save the song “Notebooks” from failing. Another successful experiment on the album’s first half is “Confessions Pt. 2.” This song uses interesting bass lines and electronics to build up to a beautiful song worthy of being a classic.
Though the shift from electronics to acoustic is largely very sudden, the song “Racecar” foreshadows the second half by including an acoustic interlude in between two electronic-driven parts. This song is what the entire electronica half was building up to, and the highlights of the song are the very Nine Inch Nails-esque intro, the beautiful, sparse acoustic interlude, and the vocals that remind the listener of a “Midtown-era Gabe Saporta-meets-Cobra Starship-era Gabe Saporta” type voice. Highlights on the acoustic half are “Scream Scream,” “Shook Up” (piano part FTW!!!), and album closer “Let’s Leave.”
I expect big things from this band in the future, one of them being a final decision on their sound. Personally, I hope they pursue the more acoustic/indie route, since the second half of the album completely overshadowed the first half, largely due to the fact that the voices John Pelant, Grace Fiddler, and Mark Ritsema are more suited to an acoustic sound.