A voice recording of drummer/vocalist Zach Choy’s dad Danny opens the third record from Canadian art-punk collective Crack Cloud. He advises, “Music is an excellent way to let your anger out, put it all on paper.” And in-between tape clicks, a hyperdramatic psycho-orchestra harps in, swallowing the listener into some twisted blend of heaven and hell. The ensuing 40 minutes delivers a series of unforgiving whiplashes through caustic abrasion, feather-light beauty, and theatrical fanfare, often rifling through these modes within a singular track. For every moment of satanic intensity - the insidious bass-throb builds of ‘Criminal’ say - there’s a flight of heart-strung purity - the aching melody of the title track, and its bruising admissions - “Took too long to discover / You yourself needed to recover”. Sonically speaking at least, ‘Tough Baby’ presents sides to Crack Cloud we are delightfully unaccustomed to. Their quintessential guitar-spiked post-punk angularities are exchanged here for pianos, female-voice choirs, and widescreen arrangements; lead single ‘Please Yourself’ comes on more The Go! Team than Gang of Four. But underneath all this brazen evolution, the essential Crack Cloud lifeblood still flows, processing anger, pain and vulnerability into a redemptive song, true to Danny Choy’s warbled wisdom. ‘Tough Baby’ gives us a distinctly moving experience of serious artistic intent. It’s like watching a wound open, flowers growing out of it.
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