Red Krayola with Art & Language: Baby and Child Care

Long shelved collection of parental advice from Dr. Spock set to art funk rhythms and new wave sheen is finally given the release it deserves.

Red Krayola with Art & Language

Baby and Child Care

Label: Drag City
US Release Date: 2016-05-13
UK Release Date: 2016-05-13

By calling the album Baby and Child Care, the Red Krayola -- here accompanied by Art & Language -- manage to approximate the internal sound and feel of trying to deal with something as irrational as a child. There is constant tension and release, heavy percussion, disorienting secondary sounds and seemingly helpful words of advice that bend and stretch about cartoonishly. It’s essentially the sound of how your brain begins functioning as you find yourself sleeping less and less, the house slowly falling apart around you.

It’s an odd choice for thematic material, but the members of Red Krayola, in all its incarnations, have never played to expectations. Taking Dr. Spock’s beloved The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care as their lyrical source material, the band then embarks on a post-punk, new wave synth funk trip through the ups and downs of child rearing. Skittering drums, sinewy bass lines and exaggeratedly choppy guitars set the tone for much of the album, making it not only something of an informative recording for new parents, but also one that can be danced to in those quiet moments that have in recent months become so few and far between.

“At Best There’s a Lot of Hard Work and Deprivation” not only sums up this basic idea perfectly, but could well serve as a sort of anthem for all those struggling through the transition from adulthood to parenthood. While cut through with a certain amount of humor in its delivery, the lyrics ring all too true for those finding themselves in the midst of “life’s most satisfying station”. “Why We Need Idealistic Children” moves things along a few years in the development of one’s children, placing them in those impressionable preteen years wherein everything takes on a greater level of significance and irrationally weighted importance. Its singsong melody and clattering arrangement make it as disorienting to listen to as the age is to live through.

At its heart, Baby and Child Care is still the usual left-of-center take on pop music one would expect from the Red Krayola crew. But this time it’s a decidedly funkier take, sounding almost as though these tracks were originally to be aimed at commercial radio. Opening track “The Tone of Your Voice: Be Firm, Don’t Shout” is a gloriously funky no wave/post-punk pastiche that wouldn’t sound out of place on any number of compilations of either genre. At times, they even manage to sound like a more in control version of the Contortions with a mild-mannered James Chance out front.

Were it not for the clearly stated origin of the lyrical content, lines like “When a toddler holds the floor and tells a story / A story that’s not true but he isn’t lying, really / Lying is for me and you / It’s for grownups” from “Make Believe In Moderation” would seem like little more than absurdist non sequiturs. But the music itself strives to underpin Dr. Spock’s platitudes. That Baby and Child Care never saw release when initially recorded some 30 years ago doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. However, its appearance now makes it feel all the more a relic of a very specific time in popular music, one which has seen a great resurgence over the last decade or so. In this, it proves to be an album out of time yet perfectly suited for the here and now.

Unfortunately, the novelty begins to wear and the album itself begins to feel more than a tad overlong. By the time the listener reaches “The Age of Three”, they may well feel as though they experienced much of the maturation process in real time, finding themselves exhausted and lacking the requisite energy to continue on. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always fun, but it’s certainly well worth it. Baby and Child Care is a big glorious mess of an album that will help you dance your way through sleep deprivation and the embarrassment of having left the house not noticing the spit-up splayed across a most unfortunate location on the front of your pants until it is far too late to do anything about it.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.