Before the Babies is an exciting, profound, meaningful, and awe-inspiring album, conceived within the minds and hearts of alternative rock band Cheats, that doesn’t just start off with a bang but ends with a tug on the heart and an aftertaste of pure enthusiasm for life’s new beginnings.
I think it’s really nice and sweet to call your album Before the Babies when one of your lead vocalists is literally “with child”. With Saab Magalona expecting, the album must be really sentimental to her and the band as a whole. To me, the album is better understood with a focus on the preparations that Saab has to make before the babies arrive; as this new phase – this new beginning – that life is about to drop on her hands just keeps coming closer by the second. It’s a beautiful example of the album’s themes.
What caught my attention was how the album doesn’t just tell you about the band’s struggles but perfectly puts you in their shoes and brings you along to experience the album’s main theme: the harsh, real truth that life never stops going forward, and that we must all be ready to grow up and face the future.
To properly present Before the Babies’ lyrical beauty, I want to contrast a line from Printers with a line from the closing song and title track Before the Babies. The album opens with “You say darkness is your ally”. And I love how this line contrasts with the album’s final lyric “I hope we’ll see the sunrise”. We see this conflict all throughout the album. That despite the brokenness and the hardships of life, there is a better tomorrow if you just continue hoping towards.
“What caught my attention was how the album doesn’t just tell you about the band’s struggles but perfectly puts you in their shoes and brings you along to experience the album’s main theme: the harsh, real truth that life never stops going forward, and that we must all be ready to grow up and face the future.”
I have to say, the album is lyrically dark and mostly explores human fear and anxiety. I mean, if Printer’s opening line isn’t depressing enough, Glassmouth‘s musings on ways that disappear, strangers in your head, and switches that you can’t control should be able to break hearts. Still won’t cry? How about the world literally crumbling right in front of you in the song Crumble? Maybe a heartbreak song like Talk will do the job? Seriously, man. If this album doesn’t tug at those heartstrings, you’re probably an alien or something.
The album deals with real human experiences and properly executes its themes and concepts. I mean, I’ve never been in a situation like what the song Talk is narrating about. But, whenever I listen to it, I suddenly feel this sense of brokenness, longing, and being hopelessly in love even though I’ve never gone through an experience like that in my life. That’s how good this album is! As I said, Cheats is so good at taking you away from the comfort of your seat and plopping you into their shoes – into these harsh experiences that the songwriters went through. It was surprising and impressive, to say the least.
It’s not just all about the darkness of life, but it’s also about the imminent sunrise that is bound to overcome that darkness. This is why I love the closing song/title track. It so perfectly concludes the album with the exact lyrical precision and musical backdrop it needed. It’s a song about compromise, the choice to let go of the one you love so that he/she won’t have to carry the weight of your past mistakes. And as a result of being separated from each other, both of you could finally grow. But, it doesn’t end there. Our protagonist ends with singing “I’m leaving with hope / I hope we’ll see the sunrise”; a touching, optimistic close that proves that the light is greater than all the darkness that surrounds us. This really left me speechless. And especially with the laidback acoustic-driven soundscape, this song is THE perfect song for a rainy day.
Now, I have to stop talking about Before the Babies for a bit because I need to talk about their debut album. And I did not like their first album.
I thought the self-titled debut album was undercooked, underproduced, rushed, and bloated with too many songs that sounded alike musically and lyrically. Because of these problems, it felt like the band wasn’t trying to prove themselves and be their own masters. It seemed like they were just conforming to mainstream pop/punk audiences’ expectations. It had a few good highlights, but as a whole was a big letdown.
But oh my, oh my. Before the Babies came out and Cheats actually managed to blow my mind. Going through my first listen, I immediately fell in love – so in love that once the album ended I immediately replayed its 40-minute long runtime of pure musical beauty.
You could hear and feel the band growing and building upon the foundation they set with their debut album. The second time around, Cheats is definitely more mature and are more sure of the direction that they are taking. Their allowing themselves to grow as musicians is a very good sign that the band is definitely headed towards greatness. Progress comes from the willingness to grow. And if you stop yourself from growing, there will be no progress. Based on how Before the Babies turned out, I don’t think that Cheats is planning to stop growing and exploring beyond the box.
“The second time around, Cheats is definitely more mature and are more sure of the direction that they are taking. Allowing themselves to grow as musicians is a very good sign that the band is definitely headed towards greatness. Progress comes from the willingness to grow.”
Surely, no work of art is perfect. Despite a lot of significant and impressive progress, there is still some room for Cheats to grow. I thought Glassmouth was a minute too long; Beg was ten to twenty seconds too short; and the song Before the Babies was 3 minutes too long, and would’ve been better if it ended with a slow fade-out than an in-a-snap hard ending (and also that jarring distorted guitar felt out of place and completely unnecessary). A few songs still kind of sounded too alike, though not as bad as the self-titled debut. Again, they do have those tendencies. But, I really trust the band’s willingness to grow. For me, Before the Babies is a true gem and a huge improvement.
Before the Babies is one surprisingly solid sophomore album that doesn’t just relive the familiar but pushes the band towards new heights. For Cheats, this is just the beginning. There is a bright future waiting for this band. And I, honestly, can’t wait to see where these guys will be when their third LP releases. I only hope they keep growing and never stop getting better.
Kudos to Cheats! From their efforts came a well-crafted sophomore album that is so much better than their first, thus proving their uniqueness and shows the band’s aptitude as individuals and a plurality.
Though set off by a shaky debut release, Cheats made the most out of their second outing and developed a promising sophomore album that substantiates the band’s musical ingenuity and uniqueness; setting them apart from others in the overcrowded and ever-growing indie music scene of Manila.
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