A Strong, Dark Return From an Individualistic Northern English Band

by delarue

The Inca Babies are not a cumbia band. They occupy a unique spot in the history of Manchester rock: their darkly kinetic sound was typically more closely attuned to American gutter blues than the gothic and industrial esthetics that surrounded them during their 80s heyday. Over the years, they’ve had some turnover among group members. The great news is that this latest edition, a power trio of guitarist Harry Stafford, bassist Vince Hunt and drummer Rob Haynes have put out a new album, Swamp Street Soul – streaming at Spotify – which finds them more eclectically inspired than ever, exploring all kinds of fresh territory.

They open with the title track, a slow, surrealistically crawling mashup of Lynchian dub and the Cramps, guest trumpeter Kevin Davy a one-man orchestra with his soaring, reverb-iced harmonies.

Track two, Walk in the Park is a horror surf strut fueled by Stafford’s repeaterbox guitar strobe. Hunt turns up the grit on his bass amp for Slingshot, a catchy, impressively funky apocalyptic reflection. They keep the slinky groove going for Dear English Journalists, a knowing chronicle of political blowback: this is what happens when populations are demonized, Stafford reminds as he hits his chorus pedal to let the chill in under the door.

“I think this is the last station before hell,” Stafford relates over scrambling, Stoogoid riffage in Crawling Garage Gasoline, one of the band’s older tunes. Bigger Than All of Us is a surprising detour into brisk, enveloping dreampop, followed by I’m Grounded, a cynical, ba-bump blues tune with roller rink organ from Stafford.

Haynes’ steady Atrocity Exhibition rolls propel the next track, Oh, the Angels How I Bless Them, up to a roaring funeral pyre on the chorus. Stafford anchors his gloomy crime rap with spiky Bauhaus chords in Windshield Gnat, Haynes adding icicle percussion in the background.

Davy’s trumpet returns, backward masked in Mine of Bones. a catchy, stalking noir blues. The trio wind up the album with a pounding dub version of the opening track. After all this band has been through, even before 2020, it’s impressive to see this version of the group still going strong.