Album Review: BARONESS Yellow & Green
There’s plenty to say about the sonic gulfs that separate Yellow & Green from Baroness’ past work, but the primary difference here is in attitude. Blue Record was a concentrated draught of snarling triumph; this (double) album brings the actual blues. Yellow & Green unwinds an arresting array of rock and roll algorithms, each stamped with the hallmarks of Baizley/Adams era Baroness. Every minute of its execution, however, is drenched in dysphoric longing. Stepping back and evaluating the album is difficult; Yellow & Green’s heavy-hearted undertow drags you down without asking permission.
Yes, heaviness has gone by the board and yes, Yellow & Green is a rock album at heart. But Baroness haven’t written a happy mainstream monstrosity; Yellow & Green’s wistful tonality goes hand and hand with the band’s “softening”. There’s an undeniably raw and genuine character to these songs that just might resonate with your tangled mortal coil.
Songwriting is the name of the game on Yellow & Green. John Baizley and Peter Adams have taken a risk, putting their voices in the forefront of the music, working alone or in concert to harpoon your consciousness. No attempt has been made to spit-polish the vocals; strangely dissonant moments can be found amongst the soaring heights and sing-along choruses. There are more than a few spots where Mr. Baizley sounds charmingly flat. For many listeners, enjoyment of Yellow & Green will hinge entirely upon the singing. I was already a fan of the Baizley/Adams partnership; this unadulterated, sullen explosion of emotion hits the spot for me repeatedly.
Southern rock proclivities permeate and paint the proceedings, percolating most obviously in the fuzzed out guitar tones and superlative solos. Every bit of somber, melodic songwriting is backed by ridiculous guitar intricacy. Well-worn rock devices manifest in the beats, in the song structures, and in the vocal patterns. Allen Blickle gamely picks up each thread of rhythmic diversity, mastering everything from thundering peals to 2/2 hops to poppy shuffles. Considering Summer Welch’s departure from the band, a curious amount of the music is driven by magnificent, pushy bass lines.
I suspect every listener will walk away from Yellow & Green citing a different set of comparative allusions. I hear strains of Elvis Costello in the vocal lines and Pink Floyd repeatedly in the riffs, repetition and ambience. An obsession with processed guitar tones is quite obvious, manifesting in Radiohead-like moments of abstraction. Dour, streaming leads and clean guitar histrionic evoke airs of Peter Gabriel’s solo work. There’s a lot to absorb here.
Baroness are quite dedicated to Yellow & Green’s melancholic ethos. Stabs at their own previously victorious bombast are only feints, almost mocking the listener with squawking triumphal tones that are quickly subsumed. This downcast devotion unifies Yellow & Green, despite the disparate elements that have infiltrated the band’s sound.
In the end, I prefer the concise musical statement of Blue Record. Having said that, I wouldn’t sacrifice a single one of Yellow & Green’s 75 minutes; the album is a consistent front to back to front to back listen for me every time. Be prepared; Baroness have a whole lotta low to lay on your ears.
Yellow & Green is out on July 17th via Relapse Records.