IN CASUAL CONVERSATION, few topics, if any, are considered taboo by Seattle's Grave Babies. From Jimmy Carter waking up to masturbate in the morning, to speed freaks, child molesters, stray mangy cats, and reading tampon boxes while taking a shit (when no magazine is available), nothing seems too off-hand for the gothy, Big Black-inspired noise-pop band. Their lyrics, written by singer/guitarist Danny Wahlfeldt, are largely indecipherable, soaked in enough reverb and distortion to stain a gauze-wrapped microphone with coughed-up blood.
"I never have any idea what I'm saying," says Wahlfeldt, who started Grave Babies as a solo home recording project nearly three years ago before bringing Tyler Robinson on keyboards/drum machine, Arbitron's Keith Whiteman on drums, and most recently, bassist Mitch Saulsberry into the fold. "Half the time I forget what I recorded in the first place and just make up melodies that sound like phrases. The voice is more like an instrument." But Grave Babies aren't trying to get the crowd to sing along. In fact, it's probably better that you don't.
"The lyrics are really fucking dramatic, about all sorts of crazy shit," says Wahlfeldt. "It's very fictional, very much of my own imagination. But I don't take myself too seriously." On Grave Babies' debut, Deathface, you'll find songs titled "Eating Babies," "Blood," "Bones," and "Drugs." The tinny, caustic lo-fi recordings contain ricocheting industrial drum-machine backbeats and ample amounts of distortion, accentuated with various tape samples of radio-tuned news reports, similar to those of Man or Astro-man?, though decidedly less sci-fi and slightly more gruesome. (The song "Nails" ends with a sample of a man saying, "The bodies should be disposed of at once. The bodies must be carried to the streets and burned.")
Grave Babies scrape the surface of goth, industrial, and lo-fi garage rock, creating an almost dream-like atmosphere of masochistic, tortured fantasies that swarm with flesh-picking demons and narcotic vices. It's certainly not pretty, but then again, neither is the thought of our 39th president masturbating.