Crack Cloud Tough Baby Meat Machine
Tough Baby begins with a comforting monologue played through a tinny dictaphone: “Music is an excellent way to let your anger out, put it all on paper.” The voice belongs to Danny Choy, father of Crack Cloud’s co-founder Zach. Danny was fatally diagnosed with leukaemia at 29 (the age Zach is now) and Crack Cloud – which began as a way for Zach to confront his own drug and alcohol rehabilitation – have always used their music as an outlet for their anxieties.
Their early EPs and debut album, Pain Olympics, were full of crashing, motorik Gang of Four-inspired tracks that were intensely personal. But Tough Baby is more spacious, largely eschewing that sound for something dreamier and classically pop, which means there’s lots of piano (think Bowie, Dexys Midnight Runners, Roxy Music). Tough Baby also sees the band turning their gaze outwards at the world around them (song titles include The Politician and Costly Engineered Illusion).
The brassy horns, arpeggiated guitars and widescreen piano of lead single Please Yourself set the scene. The song’s OTT keys, extended outro and its general archness all immediately place you in a particularly saccharine Broadway musical. The rest of the record continues in the same wide-eyed and playful vein, trying on various musical styles and eras. Virtuous Industry is a careering Devo-like swirl. The title track could be a long-lost 80s pop hit, while 115 at Night’s guitars will put you in that Van Halen state of mind. Filtered through the band’s frazzled lens, it all hangs together effortlessly.
Only on closer Crackin Up do Crack Cloud recall their earlier work, with a jagged guitar line and pounding drums illuminating how different this record is to their previous output. Though the songs don’t feel quite as anthemic as on their debut, Tough Baby still feels palpably cathartic, and echoes another message Zach’s dad shares on that opening track: “I hope you guys can learn a lot from what I’m trying to tell you.”