Royal Baths’ return is a thoroughly twisted exercise in free reign. Feeling stifled among the garage rock scene of San Francisco, the group found a new and fitting home in New York. The inspired ’60s psych rock is still there on Better Luck Next Life, but this time around, Royal Baths is giving us a taste of darkness. Though an average listener may not identify with striking deals with the devil or daydreaming of murder, it’s hard to deny Royal Baths are having a damn good time. As they declare: “This wicked world is such a ball.”
There’s an unsettling haze that inches along with Better Luck Next Life, due in part to vocal duties shared among the off-kilter pairing of Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer. You’ll certainly believe Baer is filled with hatred for his “Darling Divine”, but his warbling tenor seems disinterested, delivering vocal punches in a distinctly creep drawl that’s meant to be unnaturally sharp. It’s in Royal Bath’s willingness to embrace what is often not normal that they create a bluesy garage rock distinctly their own. There’s nothing inviting about the sputtering of guitar, screaming in feedback, that leads “Black Sheep,” but it’s hard to escape the haunting vocal exchanges that prelude an unexpected blistering breakdown. Similarly, the sexually driven “Faster, Harder” opens deceptively slow, with a lazy bass line and drums that breakneck into a chaotic ending.
Seemingly unaffected by all that surrounds them, an unforgettable disdain is present in the moments of snarled recounts (“Nightmare Voodoo”) and jolting bursts of vicious guitar solos (“Burned” and “Contempt”). Better Luck Next Time is without a doubt evil, showcasing Royal Baths’ new identity.
Essential Tracks: “Darling Divine”, “Faster, Harder”