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Sep 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 14 / Three Of A Kind – “Baby Cakes”

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POP FACTOR: 620 CONTROVERSY SCORE: 248

What you hear in Baby Cakes depends on what story you’ve been following. The story of garage? Then it’s an afterthought, a sidestep, barely even vital enough to qualify as a move backwards. The story of pop? It’s alright, another quirky dance-pop hit – those writer names on the sleeve are suspiciously Italianate, and you know what the continentals are capable of. The story of Summer 2004? Ah, well now. There’s a weakness to it, an introspection that feels right for these washed-out weeks. This time last year it was sizzling and I was planning my wedding with every window open. This summer it seems better to draw the curtains, lay low, hunker down and cuddle up. 8 (Tom)

So Solid Crew on codeine. What a sprightly stew this one is, referencing (at least to my ears) A Guy Called Gerald, Steve Reich, Dem 2 and every Detroit techno artist who has ever used those forlorn, synthetic strings. It’s a sing-a-long confection that resists consumption, all slurred vocals and detached delivery. Least-convincing use of the term “babycakes” ever, and very much the better for it. 9 (Henry Scollard)

Imagine a cake made of Babies. You could eat it with Evian, that baby-flavoured water they advertise on the television. I think Babycakes is my favourite of the Tales Of The City books. It is increasingly bitter, but feels like the somewhat disconcerting air you get at a great party that it might be the best one you have been to (cf The Party by John M.Hall). All of this is to say for pure summer pop fun, Baby Cakes is a minor classic. The Artful Dodger might be a touchstone here but even they never made anything quite so cynically clinical. Wunderbar! 8 (Pete)

A garage anthem that’s hardly there – 2:35 long and sung by tone deaf teenagers, and the rapping is as tough as saturday morning telly. But I love this, I hum it under my breath, and the vocals have a real sincerity about them- “take it step by step, because I’m not something you own”. How does garage churn out these icky tunes and make them so emotional? I guess because it’s so off the cuff that it seems that much more genuine; a brief whispered tete a tete in the middle of a pissed night out. It’s gone before you know it, but what a sweet afterthought. 8 (Derek Walmsley)

The second coming of Aqua, this time new and improved with a Heart and Courage…. no Brain, but even the Wizard knew that shit was overrated. This is the kind of bare bones synthpop that falls prey to Modern Art arguments (“heck, I coulda done that!” yeh, but you DIDN’T) but melts on the dancefloor. Call it PowerPuff.

The lil’ giggle that ushers the track in and out, the Chime-y video game rhythms, the nasal four year old rapping, the chopped verse and the sheer sheer mindless mindless mindless REPETITION. Never heard it, but I gotta guess that this is ‘jam of summer 04’ material; I’d go to the club more often if I knew THIS was waiting. Just the thing to pop pills and asses to. Verra verra good. 8 (Forksclovetofu)

If we ignore the potential implications of the laughter that bookend the track, this is quite good. The too-sweet-for words chorus may smack of superficiality, but that doesn’t keep the group from packing hook upon hook into about two and a half minutes of cynical pop. That cynicism will bother some, and the sugariness of the hooks will irritate others, but neither of those things stops the song from being a great, ephemeral rush of faux-naive charm. If this were ever to become ubiquitous on my side of the Atlantic, the single would grate my nerves by the third week. But so long as I experience it voluntarily and on a limited basis, it earns an 8. (Atnevon)

This morning: adbreak channelhop, a polyphonic ringtone, that odd muted-warm treble for the tune and a delicate fuzzy-edged counterpoint.

This evening: walking home past a trio of fake-tan legs and denim miniskirts, sing-song voices, “…baby, maybe…” and they’d walked past, out of earshot, into screams and giggles.

I like this song. I like the music-box twinkle, the sickly-sweet lyrics, the tinny syncopated ‘oh oh oh’ coda, how muffled and hazy it all sounds despite the sparseness of the arrangement, the crispness of the chorus. A little too pretty, maybe, a little outdated– but, three years ago, I would have ignored its existence with an inner sneer. Right now, I’m quite glad to recognise it, to hear the rap chanted by a Saturday girls’ night out gang. A little blip of charming two-step twee, bobbing its way up to the top of the charts like it had just been forgotten down the back of the sofa.

And the girl really is very short. 7 (Cis)

I’ve just listened to this 10 times, and it’s still making me grin. I haven’t heard a summer single that bounces quite like this since Shanks and Bigfoot, and this is far less obvious or brassy. From the giggle to the bridge, it all shimmers along without even trying. And the start of the girl’s rap is the pop moment of the summer. 7 (Jim Eaton-Terry)

I like the laugh at the start, but the almost-acapella vocal after it is rather flat and lifeless, and lacking the feeling the lyrics seem to demand. It needs the perky bleeping and chugging beats to carry it. The rapping seems too far back in the mix, and very poor in terms of flow (perhaps that’s why it’s left so far back), but the chorus is a good one. I rather like it really, in a low-key way, but I can barely think why. I guess it’s just a cute, stripped down single. 6 (Martin Skidmore)

Appropriate misreading of a Google result: “3 Of A Kind are a puppy two-step act.” Tweeeeee! 6 (David Raposa)

In which 2-step drifts past pop and lands pretty close to bubblegum. Garage followers will have none of this – the tawdry “atmospheric” synths, the amateurish vocals laced with PG-rated raps, the frothy chorus which sounds like it was initially composed as a ringtone – but if you are divorced from the scene, you might find this innocuous piece of plastic mildly addicting. And although “Babycakes” can’t muster up the same amount of icy allure that Rachel Stevens’ “Some Girls” has, it does follow in the footsteps of that summer anthem by duplicating its damp and somewhat downcast aura, and refusing to play dead after
numerous listens. A nice place to be for sure, but if it turns out that poppy grime is just around the corner, I’m not going to hang around here much longer. 6 (Michael F Gill)

Odd one this. As others have said, “why now?” It’s a perfectly diverting piece of UK Garage and if it had been a hit a month after “sweet like chocolate” it would have made a lot more sense, but it seems like a window into a long-lost past to me (according to a friend who knows about these things, it’s been a CHOON for about two years). 6 (Carsmile Steve)

Was 2000 really that long ago? Records like this were all over the UK charts just a few short years ago, but Baby Cakes sounds curiously out-of-place in today’s pop landscape. This is enlivened by a few nice touches – the twinkly backing, the muted mini-house buildup at the beginning and especially the oh-too-brief verse from the female MC who pops up half way through. But everything about Babycakes sounds frustratingly restrained – I keep expecting things to really take off, but they never do by the time the track limps off after a mere two and a half minutes.

I’ve now listened to this record five times in a row and am already yearning for one of the more abraisive moments from the new Dizzee album, hoping that grime never produces anything as tepid and bland as this flimsy affair. And by ‘eck, that chorus lady sounds bored doesn’t she? I can hardly blame her. 4 (Matt D’Cruz)

A good hook usually works its way in your brain – or preferrably your hips – and dominates your world. Each time I listened to 3 of a Kind, I alienated myself more and more from their Artful Dodger meets Aqua single “Babycakes.” It’s catchy as hell. The more I listen, the less I love life. The music is great, it’s just the infantile voice that irks me. Especially the rapping, which is more Wee Pappa Girl Rappers than Salt ‘n’ Peppa. Maybe the appeal lies in its amateuristic veneer. 2 step’s back. (Stevie Nixed)

Y’know I don’t know if this is Babycakes by 3 Of A Kind or vice-versa. Does anybody care?

Erm yeah, I could write something deep, long and insightful here, but it really doesn’t deserve it.

Its shit. You know it. 0 (MW_Jimmy)

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