Guilty: Babe the Blue OX makes its best album ever

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First release from Brooklyn perennial in 15 years

We didn’t really know Babe the Blue OX in its 1990s heyday, when the band was a regular(-ish) feature on bills around New York City. We heard and appreciated some of its recordings, and were charmed by its Paul Bunyan-esque name and Barbra Streisand-ish album titles.

For whatever reason, we never saw Babe live until a couple of years ago, when the members decided to come out of accidental retirement and start playing on a semi-regular basis again.

(Full disclosure: We met and became friendly with singer-guitarist Tim Thomas through his day job as a fund-raiser for a nonprofit long before we even realized he was in Babe.)

Listen to Guilty and read more after the jump.

Listen to the album or buy it here: 

When we finally caught the band live, in September 2008 during the inaugural season of shows at The Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, we were pleasantly surprised to see a tight, focused bunch of middle-age rockers giving their all,

Even more surprising was the fact that the live sound was so much more compelling than anything we’d heard on their albums — a couple of which were released on RCA. With all the effort and money that presumably went into the albums, the results don’t seem to do justice to the live sound we heard.

Guilty, Babe’s first album in 15 years, changes all that.

The sounds is crisp and the singing and playing are crystal clear when they should be, and noisy and dirty when intended.

The effect is magical. The thumping bass line and staccato vocal that kick off “N.O.W.” are classic Babe, with a tip of the hat to today’s lives (mentions of minivans and brunches, for instance). Another standout is “Estate Planning,” a look at the passing of time, lives have changed and what’s important that starts sedately and evolves into a glorious tsunami of sound.

The album won’t be released “officially” (whatever that means) until April 15. But it’s available for download at Bandcamp.com for a mere $10.

And there’s one show scheduled to celebrate the album release — a bill that includes Ida, VPN, Morning Glories and M Shanghai String Band, almost all of which are old friends of Babe’s: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 25, at The Bell House. Tickets, $10, are available by clicking here.

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