Baroness : Yellow & Green

It was, I suppose, just a matter of time. On this very site last year, I wrote that hardly a week would pass without another slab of fine music dropping on our digital doormats from the southern United States. There was a sense that there was something exciting brewing in the swamp lands of Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana; something that would soon leave that creative hinterland and break through, a la Mastodon, into a different league. Fast forward 12 months and that serious breakthrough could well have arrived. Baroness (for it is they) have only gone and absolutely smashed it. Knocked it out of the park. Pulled a blinder. Scored a screamer. Yeah, I think it’s a bit good.

Yellow & Green is the latest release from the Georgia quartet and is a beautiful and beautifully realised work; it’s a double album and overall is a sprawling, evocative, immersive mess: it’s the best damn thing that they have done. Those of you who are salivating at the prospect at another slab of sludgy mastery are going to have your expectations significantly altered. Baizley was recently quoted as saying “The record’s got a much broader palette of songs. There are some moments where we’re sticking to some of the foundations we’ve laid down and others where it’s a brand new type of song for us.” And then some.

Yellow and Green takes everything the band know and delivers it formidably. More though, the band have learnt several new tricks, several new layers and nuances and have produced a seriously excellent record. It’s not heavy metal, it’s not post rock or new rock: enough of the pigeon-holing anyway. This is just great music and I couldn’t give a proverbial flying monkeys uncle if you disagree. You’re wrong.

Matters start with the instrumental, atmospheric guitar led Yellow Theme which has an almost folky feel to it before we are into Take My Bones Away which immediately sets up camp in the back of your brain, refusing to leave. You have the signature vocals, the buzz saw guitars and the fairly fuzzy atmospherics but this time around there’s a directness to the engagement that is very welcome. The same is true of the mid tempo March to the Sea which revels in its angst and melancholy but without one scintilla of self pity. The psychedelic influenced Back Where I Belong sounds forlorn and hopelessly romantic whilst Sea Lungs reminds me of latter day Mastodon but this is no homage or facsimile. Eula is well, just an incredible bit of music, with the ” I can’t forget the taste of my own tongue” playing about in my head as I write this .

Green Theme takes the melancholy of Yellow Theme to the next level with some haunting and introspective music that you just have to sit back and admire; there is some seriously smart stuff going on here. Board Up the House is what disc jockeys used to call a “smash”, Mtns (the Crown and Anchor) and Foolsong sounds like they wandered in off an obscure Steely Dan album (this you understand is a very good thing indeed); Psalms Alive starts off all Kid A era Radiohead before smashing the place up in more classic Baroness style and verve. There’s a fragile beauty to Stretchmarker and a gnarly cantankerousness running through the more familiar The Line Between. We are veritably waltzed out of proceedings by the really rather lovely If I Forget Thee, Low Country which sounds like it should be the closing credits to a Coen Brothers movie.

Yellow & Green is a much more measured affair than Baroness’s two previous albums Red or Blue but no less creative, no less absorbing and no less brilliant. In fact, to these ears, it outstrips them in terms of scope of ambition, breadth of vision and effectiveness of execution. It confirms the suspicions that many of us already had that John Baizley is something of a creative genius and reaffirms the faith hope and expectations that we had of his band; this is a brilliant, brilliant record that I cannot recommend highly enough.