Seattle’s gloomy outfit Grave Babies have a knack for producing crisp-edged post-punk that both comfortingly and creepily sounds like a mash-up of every mildly popular goth band circa 1979–1989—that is, every band that didn’t have ethereal lady vocals, which neatly rules out at least half. Here we have all the guyliner-fronted tropes: chunky drum-machines, the layered minor-key harmonies, the resonant, dreamy guitar fills. Yes, there is something deliberately, almost comically derivative about Grave Babies, as if it were goth fanboy music, or the most dedicated cover band that ever existed. The earnestness works and, frankly, the near-goofily titled EP, Gothdammit, is a joy—if “joy” is an acceptable term in association with the genre.
Admittedly, the song titles sound like they’re setting you up for gimmicky one-liners—selections include “Mourning Heir,” “Nightmare,” and “Bloodstains”—any of which could easily have been a vetoed Jesus and Mary Chain track. “Nightmare,” the lead single from the EP, rather unimaginatively echoes the drone-philia launched years ago by Crystal Stilts (and, truthfully, even they are trying to surf it up a little more these days). When, actually, it’s the hyperbolically goth-named “Mourning Heir” that surfaces here as the standout track—opening with a blistery fried-organ vamp and offset by drum-machine blasts and achingly melodic dream-pop rhythm-guitar arcs—despite the production being intentionally tinny and blown out (their PR-declared genre is “blasted goth”), it feels like it could anachronistically sneak onto a John Hughes soundtrack undetected, probably due to the fact that frontman Danny Wahlfedt’s vocals lie in the uncharted leather-jacket landscape between Robert Pollard and Richard Butler. Undoubtedly, Grave Babies take cues from each, and by cranking the amps up to a piercing level and incorporating synth screeches and a few glitchy found sounds (which this EP could possibly use a little bit more of), they manage to repackage their own quietly tongue-in-cheek homages into an infinitely listenable brand.