If I say to you Babybird, chances are that the first (and only) thing to spring to mind is the 1996 hit single “You’re Gorgeous”. And that’d be it.
Stephen Jones, the one man band that is behind the Babybird moniker, is in fact responsible for 5 albums to date, and has a back catalogue of over 400 songs, but is destined to only be remembered for that one hit.
Which is a shame, as his latest album “Best Of Babybird” shows that Jones is a criminally under-rated singer-songwriter, blessed with a good voice, and a sharp eye for lyrical twists.
This is typified by “You’re Gorgeous”, the song that is on the soundtrack to hundreds of Irish relationships. The first song on the album, it’s a lush, heartfelt song, which, contrary to popular belief, deals with the exploitation of a young woman by a seedy photographer, and his false promises to convince her to do what she doesn’t feel comfortable doing (“You paid me 20 pounds/You promised to put me in a magazine, on every table, in every lounge”).
Quickly following this, second song (and sometime minor hit) “Bad Old Man” is an acerbic, bitter rant dealing with parental abuse over time, and its outcome – what it forces people to become (“He drowned his stepson in the duck pond”/”He put razorblades in the ice-cream”).
“Back Together” is a dichotic call for the return of a lover – referring to her return and the fact that the songs protagonist can’t cope, and is breaking to pieces (“Give me all that you have; if you don’t I will steal it”/”I’m falling apart every minute of every day, but you’re there to put me back together again”)
“Goodnight” lightens the tone of the album somewhat. A guitar-driven gem, it deals with a relationship in which the two participants just can’t get on, at all (“I’m like a TV learning to swim”), but the chorus storms in with one’s acceptance of their flaws (“But I don’t blame you, you’re always right, I’m like a bad day, on your good, good night”).
“In The Country” continues the light tone of the album, but with an undercurrent of fear (“Let the sun make us believe, that everything is true”).
“Candy Girl” describes Jones questioning of a partner – what is she to him (“Are you the tornado in my sails?/Are you Paris without snails?”); and his acceptance she’s not everything he’s looking for (“Of course you’re not, you’re not, you’re not”).
“If You’ll Be Mine” is an orchestral-led journey through Jones’ acceptance that the relationship the song describes doesn’t give him what he wants (“Built like a house, A little house that’s peeling, As it peels away you’ll see, There’s no feeling, there’s no feeling at all”), but his willingness to stay in it, and make a future if he has to ( “I burn like a tree, at the end of the garden, We put up a swing for the children”/ “If you’ll be mine, I’ll be yours”).
The remainder of the album can be divided into two general groups of songs: pop songs dealing with everything from acceptance (“The Way You Are”) to materialism (“Cornershop”); and experimental harsher soundscapes (“The F-Word”, “Atomic Soda”, “One Dead Groove”).
Each and every song of the 17 on this Best Of highlights just how good Jones is, and answers the question “Where do some one-hit wonders go?”
(Answer: They continue making absolutely amazing music).