Oh Baby – Hey Genius

Oh Baby

London and Manchester based duo Oh Baby, made up of Rick Hornby and Jen Devereux bring us their follow up album to 2019’s ‘The Art Of Sleeping Alone’.

1. Cruel Intentions

This opening track is an enjoyable upbeat synth-pop effort with a catchy riff and alliterative lyrics, “Like a film on film, fire on fire”. The track opens with a brief string synth line which is quickly consumed by a pulsating drum machine as the song drives forwards. The theme appears to be confusion over why a person who claims to love someone can also behave in an unpleasant manner, culminating in the line “sometimes a lover has a cruel intention, I don’t know why”.

Sonically the song hits the mark as a re-creation of some popular 1980s tunes, from bands like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell, the latter of whom enjoyed the massive hit ‘Tainted Love’, which tells a similar story. The bridge section drops the pulsating drum pattern in favour of something akin to the homemade drum pads which dominated sections of the epic ‘Autobahn’ by Kraftwerk, before returning to the livelier dance track theme. Vocally this sets the tone for the rest of the set, high pitched, floaty, La Roux meets Alison Goldfrapp.

 2. I Need Somebody to Love Tonight

Track two opens with a fun and funky deep base synth line which gradually becomes layered with a higher pitched sequencer line and the distinctive drum sound heard in the bridge of ‘Cruel Intentions’. A simple yet yearning message slowly repeats the title of the song throughout, apart from during a very chilled-out bridge containing floaty string synth sounds. Guitars in this song feel like early Cure, echoing and jangly, bringing a sense of what can only be described as ‘shoegaze’ to the whole piece.

3. L.I.A.R

Love is a rumour AKA ‘LIAR’, is a slow burning but epic track. Booming, rhythmic drums build throughout the piece and are counterpointed by a synthesised xylophone sound which mirrors the guitars. The catchy chorus lingers in the mind long after this ends, “Love is rumour, you know it’s true; I believe in rumours, do you?” tells of the desire to be loved and be in love. This song leaves the listener anticipating what comes next for these accomplished torch bearers of modern synth driven pop.

 4. High-Teens

A feel-good track, very bouncy and upbeat, opens with a voice sample and continues with layered harmonised vocals throughout.

5. In Her Car

The accomplished spacey sound of the early tracks continue into this song, which opens on an echoing guitar sound and a sharp drumbeat. As the track develops droning synths and a higher pitched guitar motif build the complexity as bass sequences kick in around the middle. The vocoder-like synthesised vocals add a bit of nostalgia and fun to what is an otherwise serious affair. “I’ll be anyone you want” stands out in the lyric, signalling a desire to be loved, even if it means having to pretend to be someone else. A long fade sees the rich textures wane leaving a tapping drum and the guitars drifting away into the distance, bringing a real sense of longing to this song.

Overall ‘Hey Genius’ is a rewarding adventure into the world of retro 80’s style synth-pop. However, this album reveals a more diverse set of influences and styles ranging from early 70’s electronica through to the peak of the 80’s while echoing contemporary artists. The bands sound also draws from other genres such as goth rock (The Cure) to the dreamy sounds of 90’s shoegaze; resulting in an eclectic and enjoyable mix.

Hey Genius by Oh Baby is out July 23rd via Burning Witches Records.

Alice Bloor