THEY MAY be down, but the Babes come out fighting. Battling lukewarm reviews for their patchy new album and general indifference to grungular yank yowling, they still turn a half-full Glasgow ballroom into a trampoline-floored stagediver hell with blood-boiling opener ‘Bruise Violet’. Some might view this ferocious belligerence as healthy self-confidence, others as a desperate attempt to regain the plot…
At full tilt, as on the snorting riff stallion of their new single ‘Sweet 69’, Babes In Toyland are still unstoppable. Lori’s tribal drumming is glam-racket brutal, Maureen’s elastic basslines throb with pure voodoo delirium and Kat Bjelland roars through a scary gallery of voices from demented babydoll to bronchitic lumberjack to barbed-wire Lydon sneer.
But the catch is, behind this tidal wave of spite and spunk, the Babes have very few fallback options. There is no Plan B in Toyland, just a crumpled heap of broken-backed riffs and impenetrable band in-jokes which start to grate as the midset slump arrives. Bjelland seems to have shot her bolt prematurely and spends far too long reloading.
Finally we get ‘Handsome And Gretel’ and, bloody hell, Kat snaps back into full-metal-racket assault mode. With one volcanic spitball of hatred and vengeance, Bjelland virtually flattens Glasgow with her out-of-control, gut-wrenching spasms of foul-mouthed rage.
A flesh-tearing finale, but it’s not quite enough. Not even with the punk-rock demolition of Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ as a late afterthought. Babes In Toyland can rock like donkeys any day of the week, but beyond this rudimentary skill they’re starting to look like one trick ponies. Suddenly Toyland doesn’t seem like such a fun place to be.
© Stephen Dalton, New Musical Express, 27 May 1995