Baio – The Names
Solo albums are usually pretty suspect. For every Ozzy Osbourne there’s a whole host of guys like Slash, Paul Banks, Scott Weiland, and Mick Jagger – people who have no business separating themselves from their bands. They’re typically the result of too much ego to be contained even by a world-shaking band, and a need to stake their own claim discrete from where they became famous. This effect is even worse when it’s the bassist from a famous band. The reason behind this is that the bassist, in your typical rock ‘n’ roll format, is the most boring person there is. No one cares about the bassist.
Chris Baio is the bassist for upper-crust Ivy League dorm band Vampire Weekend. After three albums of riffing on Paul Simon like he was the Second Coming of Jesus, the band seems to have come to a period of individual exploration. That is to say, singer Ezra Koenig is doing some stuff in collaboration with others, and now bassist Chris Baio is staking out a solo album, The Names. Just the idea of the bassist from Vampire Weekend making a solo album is typically enough to make me cringe.
He pulls it off really, really well, however. These are not the sort of rote Vampire-lite songs that you might expect to tinkle oh-so-preciously from your speakers. These are songs anchored to hard, throbbing bass, more influenced by epic house anthems than they are by Upper West Side Soweto. Lead single “Sister of Pearl” is actually the outlier here; most of these tracks resemble the opener, “Brainwash yyrr Face”, with light, graceful vocals playing around the maypole of that monolithic rumble at the bottom. “I Was Born In A Marathon” is the best track here; it runs through a tidal bridge that shows a masterful hand with fusing house tropes into a more general pop form.
Chris Baio bucks a trend here; he may not be Ozzy Osbourne but gets the job done in a rare fashion, and it’s one solo album that’s actually worth listening to.