"Hippie" is a term that gets thrown around a little too lightly these days. When we think of patrons to the '60s counterculture movement, we think of Woodstock, an abundance of tie-dye, and a resistance to capitalistic conformity. While this term has evolved over the last half a century or so, Babe Rainbow continues to challenge such hippie ideals and etch their own cornerstone on the psychedelia-dipped quilt.
Forging their own esplanade has culminated into their fourth full-length album Changing Colours, which promises to be their most mature release yet. While they have distanced themselves from the all-out psychedelic rock that their self-titled debut provided, they continue to knit their quilt merging a softer psychedelia sound with calm acoustic melodies borrowed from their most recent LP, Today.
Living with their families on rural farmland on the Gold Coast of Australia, Babe Rainbow care for their livestock and tend to their crops of fresh herbs and vegetables while recording about the most authentic psychedelic music you can find nowadays — when they're not surfing in the Pacific pocket.
This authenticity manifests through their playful take on a society that is often stuck in seriousness. What Babe Rainbow does that makes them true-to-form bohemians is their combative mindset regarding finding fulfillment through untraditional means.
They are not letting people forget that happiness and self-realization can come through any means one can find purpose in. To put it broadly, it is not a waste of time to hang around and make music with friends. It can often be the best use of time.
Jack Crowther (guitar), Angus Dowling (vocals), Miles Myjavaec (drums), and Elliot O'Reilly (bass) are those friends. And while the boys from Byron Bay have switched their formation several times now, adding and subtracting members, at the end of the day it is still jamming with the fellas.
With Babe, however, it is not always sunshine and rainbows. As in true counter-culture fashion, they give their impression of the times we find ourselves in as the record is inspired heavily by the wildfire disasters in their homeland.
Changing Colours opens with their first single "Zeitgeist," which dropped sometime back in the crux between fall and winter of 2020. This track, in many ways, encapsulates the whole project. Playful, catchy, and texturized through a number of percussive elements and wonderful guitar work.
On the surface, the lyrics are fun and rather silly but the basis of "Zeitgeist" is actually quite poetic. As Dowling sings how outside lies within, the comparison between the patient peeling of a mandarin orange to get the most rewarding, juiciest of results contrast to the rushed peeling process that yields a disappointing result.
Following "Zeitgeist" is "The Wind," the second single from Changing Colours, dedicated to the devastation to the forests and wildlife caused by the Australian bushfires plaguing the motherland as the album was being written. "The Wind" begins with an automated drum loop, like "Morning Song," track two from Today, yet mixing with Crowther's soft, sultry guitar rhythms, makes for an irresistibly lovely, recognizably Babe-sounding track.
Speaking of recognizable, many were shocked when the New South Wales rockers enlisted Jaden Smith for an unlikely collaboration on their third single "Your Imagination." The dreamy, shaker and light guitar-woven track sounds wonderfully on par with the rest until Jaden's verse comes in.
Undoubtedly the most dissimilar song the band has ever released, "Your Imagination" mirrors many of the mellow tracks they have produced in their repertoire so far with a tinge of Willy Wonka sprinkled in. Given the underlying Gene Wilder themes matched with the fact all four members had their first children this past year, one can understand why the band said their next album may well be a children's album. Yet there is something genuine about Jaden's verse that I think fans of both artists will dig this collaboration.
Sliding into track four, "Ready For Tomorrow" is easily one of the most upbeat and kicking off with a groovy beat provided by Myjavaec, familiar to how some tracks from the past like "Eureka" from 2018's Double Rainbow have begun.
Seemingly uncommon in commercial releases, the first four tracks from Changing Colours were the four singles in sequence but the first "new" song fans will hear when the album drops at track five is "California" — the best track on the album for my money. While many artists have made their 'ode to California' type of tracks, Babe's is uniquely theirs as the bulk of the album was actually written and recorded in Topanga, California.
The irresistible acoustic rhythm overlaid with a classic rock sounding guitar line to begin the track gives way to James Taylor or America comparisons. The selected vocal melody by Dowling is remarkably '70s and certainly one of my favourites in recent memory. "California" should be one of the premier summer playlist songs this season and gives feelings of cruising the coastline with the windows down. Like "Ready For Tomorrow" track six, "Rainbow Rock," also gives off Double Rainbow vibes. Dowling's washed out chorus vocals helps separate itself from the pack and alluding to the title, it is one of the rockier songs on the release.
Something Babe Rainbow unquestionably excels at is creating compelling song titles. Much like the notable "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and "Peace Blossom Boogy" of the past, "New Zealand Spinach" may well rival these top notch titles. For some reason, 'United States Lettuce' just wouldn't be as cool but I digress.
Nevertheless, "New Zealand Spinach" is one of the most grounded in psychedelia on this album. Embedded in guitar arrangements that sound inspired by the Grateful Dead — no stranger to distinctive song titles themselves — this one would certainly be on their Woodstock setlist.
Track eight, "Thinking Like A River," builds off of this psychedelic momentum and brick by brick, lays the foundation to be another strong candidate as one of the best songs from the record as Dowling's lyrical prowess is at the forefront along with Crowther's guitar style that continues to mirror the Grateful Dead. As "Curl Free" begins, we hear the sounds of the ocean waves washing up as Dowling convinces listeners that the waves in his ocean are curl free. We also hear the integration of other influences such as Donovan through this broadway-rock sounding track. The shortest track on the album finishes with a collection of seagulls and seabirds singing along.
The next sun-soaked song, "Smile," takes a backseat to the creative song names of "Superstition Shadow Walk"'s past but makes up for it with one of the catchiest choruses that includes a call back to chrous from "Zeitgeist" while also sounding extremely similar to "Beasty" from Today.
The title track "Changing Colours" is delightfully bright with a wide array of sound headed by tasteful keys and a swirly lead line. "Different Stages Of Life" channels a Red Hot Chili Peppers type of sound with a the reminiscent vocal line while the rhythm guitar, submerged in a bluesy '70s tone, drives behind vocals.
Changing Colours, released through Eureka, AWAL, and Flightless Records, sees Babe Rainbow continue to grow upwards, chopping the weeds that once restrained them and grasping at the roots that keep them grounded among the top influences in psychedelic music.