A collaboration between drummer Tyler Harrington (The Wirms/Off Peak Arson) and guitarist/vocalist Haley Ivey, Little Baby Tendencies are a fantastically angry duo. Their sound blends garage punk and noise rock in a way that seems pretty vital, and although their songs rely very heavily on a core of shouting and crashing drums, they also bring a brilliantly dirty edge to an otherwise typical world of distortion.
Their very grubby sound is immediately evident on their 2023 full length, when ‘Hard Limits’ opens with an insane grumbling noise that sounds like a sludge metal band about to launch into a cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Drunken Butterfly’. This wall of distortion is used very effectively to punctuate verses where a metal tinged riff drives a classic garage punk groove, and Ivey shouts with a real intent. Her delivery often sounds like the bastard child Kat Bjelland and Bianca from the largely forgotten comedy hardcore band Butt Trumpet, but what’s most important here is how she takes that unrestrained, untrained tone and adds unexpected high end shrieks that offset any actual melody the tune might have had. This gives LBT a real edge, before the music takes a complete dogleg into a world of multi-layered stoner-ish riffing. If this sounds like the work of two different noise oriented bands jammed together, then so be it – it still works. A similar sound fills the title cut, and although a couple of the riffs get lost under a very harsh production sound, Haley’s vocals continue to cut through in a way that’s more striking than your average shouter, and her love of massive guitar parts steers the track in a rather indulgent way before descending into another sludgefest where their hardcore interests collide with noise rock. In just a couple of minutes, the number creates behind a speaker-busting wall of sound that’s incredibly intense.
Adding a little more melody, ‘NAM’ opens with a rattling drum part and descending guitar riff that sounds like a twisted take on The Ruts’ ‘Babylon’s Burning’, before careening into a heavy, garage rock groove where Ivey’s guitar parts sound simultaneously angry and wonky. Her distorted tone borrows from proto-grunge punks The Wipers, but at the same time, her playing has enough character to be distinctly hers and to form a very recognisable sound for LBT. Harrington, meanwhile, latches onto a crashy groove that’s heavy on the cymbals and a little more complex than the early Wirms recordings, but without losing sight of another brilliantly raw garage punk goal and helping to create one of the album’s highlights. Just as you think you’ve got the measure of this band’s approach, ‘Complicit’ opens with a guitar riff that sounds like a LBT mangling of an old Monster Magnet jam, before switching gears into a harsher chorus where tribal-ish drums underscore a vocal sneer that’s an unsettling reappraisal of 1977 punk. Elsewhere, Ivey loses herself in a world of screams and a really spiteful tone – all of which is a brilliant outlet for her anger – but her best contribution to the track comes with an unexpected introduction of another descending riff that presents a fantastically fuzzy tone. ‘Do U Love Me’, meanwhile, attempts to take some of those quirkier riffs to power an arty garage rocker where the vocals mirror the music. In some ways, this distinctive – almost Babes In Toyland-esque – ugliness should work well given Haley’s very direct approach, but its repetitive nature can be as irritating as entertaining, depending on your mood. Luckily, the arrangemenr also features some superb hardcore parts for balance, and an almost crust punk coda where Harrington smashes the living hell out of his kit. This ensures that from wobbly beginnings, this noisy jam ends on a very strong note.
For lovers of sludgy sounding punk, ‘Give Me Your Coat’ should more than entertain, as it re-introduces the heavily distorted sound as heard in ‘Hard Limits’, creating a superb backdrop for more vocal anger, but still retains a wish for the arty when the sheer noise is intercut with a hard edged riff that’s more fIREHOSE than Fear. In doing so, it sets in place another uncompromising angle for the band’s music. Even better, ‘Burn The Flag’ reinforces LBT’s desire to offset a world of noise with strangeness when the punk is derailed by harsh guitar noises and odd stops. This keenness for odd twists really benefits an angular guitar solo and a venture into sludge worthy of Steel Pole Bath Tub, but the heart of the track is where the duo really excels. Armed with a spiky riff and sneering vocal, its best moments sound like a near perfect tribute to ‘Frankenchrist’ era Dead Kennedys, and as such, provide another stand out moment within this already great album.
…And for those Wirms fans who might have heard rumours of Tyler working in a punk band, the purer sounds of ‘Tesla Guy’ and ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ bulk out an already enjoyable collection of songs with a couple of genuine thrashers where LBT pay tribute to an original American hardcore influence. With traces of Germs and Agnostic Front powering the speed driven riffs, there’s a world of breakneck riffs to devour. Granted, this band’s tendencies to take detours into artier noise keeps a lot of the material more interesting, but you can’t beat a tried and tested wall of punk noise.
The combination of buzzsaw guitars laying down a relentless noise alongside Ivey’s shrill vocal provides the core of a winning formula, and although you’ll have heard other similar garage punk and noise rock in the past, that never takes anything away from LBT’s overall coolness. Their ability to throw in the odd musical twist on occasion ensures the material never becomes too repetitive, which also works in their favour. As a full time member of The Wirms, Harrington is no stranger to making some very raw noises, but his work with Little Baby Tendencies is in a different league, and Ivey’s pure anger cuts through every track on this release in a way that’s genuinely unhinged…and often genuinely exciting. In terms of pure adrenaline, this album scores very highly on all fronts, and despite a small wobble during ‘Do U Hate Me’, ‘Bad Things’ should provide a welcome short, sharp shock for lovers of noise rock and angular hardcore everywhere.