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Screw your iPod, your smartphone, your iTunes account: Normal Babies evokes a time and place when music had a heart

click to enlarge Sounds Like: Teenage you, laying on your bedroom floor, listening to the Kinks' Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One in one headphone, and Pavement in the other. - CHAD RAMSEY
  • Chad Ramsey
  • Sounds Like: Teenage you, laying on your bedroom floor, listening to the Kinks' Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One in one headphone, and Pavement in the other.

Normal Babies wants to find you.

You kids of the 1990s, or 1980s. Who remember saving up your money to buy a new album at the record store the exact day it came out. Who remember where you were when you heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time, and the feeling you had when it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention.

You, who have felt the power of music at the very center of your being. Where are you?

Normal Babies is a band of four men trying to evoke an era when bands put out albums and fans listened to the whole thing — a time when pop music meant something entirely different than it does today. They know they can't be the only ones in Spokane aching for that youthful feeling. When it felt like music could really save the world.

"I remember the exact moment that I wanted to start playing music: I was 12 and I heard 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana and it changed me on a cellular level," says Matt Lakin, who plays guitar and sings in Normal Babies. "I decided at that point, all I want to do is make music and art, and that's it."

Right now, though, more than two years into their life as a band, they're still finding their audience. The band recently played their first all-ages show in Spokane after previously playing only to bar crowds.

"A lot of times we feel like we're a soundtrack to [people] getting drunk," says drummer Jeff Glinski.

"We're notoriously pretty good at clearing a room out after playing a song," laughs Ben Jennings, the band's other singer/guitarist.

That's the most frustrating thing: Normal Babies is one of those bands that's thard not to like — but you actually have to pay attention. On a surface level, it seems like they make sneering, sass-mouthed rock. But just below the skin is something a hell of a lot more interesting: a dirty, catchy, unapologetic pop sound that is as much Pavement as it is the Kinks.

Part of Normal Babies' magic is the interplay between Lakin and Jennings. When the band started with just those two in February 2012, the pair would take turns singing and playing guitar, or playing drums. (The band has filled out with Glinski and bassist Travis Goldberg). Jennings' song "½ Golden Calf" kicks off their most recent recorded effort, an EP called Who Will? It's a detached, slurry track that unexpectedly grows into a full-blown anthem, one that raises eyebrows in its complexity and weird angles. The next track, Lakin's "Broken Arm," is a poppy, full-speed-ahead toe-tapper.

The beauty of Normal Babies is right there in that back-and-forth. They're like Dr. Jekyll on his meds: songs teem with detached optimism and sadness, disappointment and rage, but the band never boils over.

And they tackle concepts too big to be asked of barroom crowds looking to drink away their problems. On "Jacob," Lakin sings about his brother-in-law, who went to the grocery store one night and was killed in a car accident. "The ones who deserve it always get away," he sings.

Even though sometimes it seems like no one is listening, they'll never stop searching for the people who are.

"It's the hunt for the perfect song that will definitely change anybody," Lakin says. "It doesn't matter who." ♦

Normal Babies plays Volume on Fri, May 30, at 8 pm at the Big Dipper • 171 S. Washington • All-ages

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