First things first. What the hell does Baak Gwai mean? A quick drop in at the band's MySpace Page reveals it is derogatory Cantonese for a Caucasian, you know, ‘white trash’. It’s also the name for a band from Alabama who play ‘progressive indie rock’, or, maybe ‘indie-dance, dance-rock’.
Formed back in 2004 Baak Gwai consist of John Snowden who covers vocals and guitar, bass player Adam Pate, and drummer Chris Zeiler. Pretty soon they released their debut self title album and added a fourth member keyboard and percussionist Bo Hicks.
Any band that lists their influences as beer, liquor, and cigarettes is okay by me. Their list of music influences is a bit of fun too. It swings from The Cars, through Elvis Costello, drops in on The Police, and includes the opposite bookends of Mars Volta and the Four Tops. Intrigued? I was.
Having signed to Decimal Records, their second full length album is out. Find A Stranger In The Alps comes with some nice artwork by Chris Smith, thirteen tracks of Baak Gwai’s slant on progressive indie rock, and a kick ass opener, the excellently named, “Alabamsterdam”.
So what do this Alabama four serve up? “Alabamsterdam” grabs hold of your attention right from the off -like-a-band-on-a-mission. ‘Lies, lies, lies, and alibis’ powers out John Snowden before “Falcor” picks up where that left off with a rock fuelled romp of a track that takes root in your head and has more time changes than an around the world back packing trip.
“Dandruff” kicks in with pounding drums, ringing guitars, and a nice little bass line. “Verminham” and "Propeller" both smolder with the sort of anger that powers punk, then and now.
“Better Than Better Than Ezra” has enough energy to run your car and again has drummer Chris Zeiler constantly changing time-wise. Powerfully building towards a nicely addictive and ringing, riffy ending, this is one that leaves you wanting to hit play again.
Just as we are getting into hooks on both “County Seat”, and “Making Moves” they shift it around. Both beg to be turned up loud enough to stun the traffic you are sitting in, and will hang around a while after you’ve been arrested.
The all too brief “Rookie Mistakes” leads headlong into the driving “Home”. Again they switch it, slowing it down into a chiming guitar, before standing on the gas again.
The energic “Ringing”, and the well paced “Muscle Chowder” take us towards the closer “Potato”. This is a band who know where they are going even if you can’t always second guess them. Never ones to take a predictable, or even safe route, Baak Gwai come straight on at you, literally demanding your attention.
Find A Stranger In The Alps has that played ‘live’ in your face feel that it needs and offers up some energy, and attitude along with some moments that will hook you in. Have a listen by calling in at either the bands website or their MySpace page.