The Blake Babies Are So Beautiful, It Hurts To Look At Them


Today Blake Babies are my favorite band and my favorite song is "Out There," from the album Sunburn. I've watched the video for "Out There" about 30 times in the past week and it's hurt me every time, but it also makes me stupidly happy and giddy. It's like a video you'd make if someone let you make a video when you were in seventh grade: there's low-grade gymnastics, some dippy choreography, bubble-blowing, making out, the eating of flowers and of crayons, everyone in the Blake Babies cutting off her or his hair. It's a very preteen idea of arty, but it's so elegantly realized and makes me think that you should never forget all the weird shit you wanted to make when you were 11, 12, 13; you should return to it and use your grown-up brain and resources to make it as good and genius and gorgeous as possible.

Blake Babies were based in Boston, and I grew up in Massachusetts, and I've decided it means something that we come from the same place. They got together in 1986, when I was eight. When I was eight the most exciting thing in the world was helping my older cousins out with their Sunday-morning paper route: waking up when it was still dark out, delivering all the papers, and then taking our tip money and buying tons of candy at the gas station. It's so mind-blowing to me that while I was eating Swedish fish and Reese's cups for breakfast on the disgusting ground of a gas-station parking lot, the Blake Babies were existing an hour's drive away and making songs together, songs like "Wipe It Up" and "Better'n You." They were kids then too, still teenagers, but thinking of Blake Babies in that context makes them seem so glamorous and dreamy in their olderness. I mean seriously - LOOK HOW DREAMY THEY ARE:

Because I'm a goofball and a romantic, one of the most glamorous and dreamy things about the "Out There" video is the recurring theme of Juliana all alone vs. John and Freda together and in love. It's so sweet when John kisses the top of Freda's head when they're waltzing together, and I adore his eyelashes/lovey-dovey eyes in this little moving picture our buddy made here

And then there's Juliana smiling into the camera as she waltzes with herself, and calmly stroking her own face with a pair of scissors. She looks really cool when she kicks over the flowers, and cooler when she pricks her finger with the sewing needle and touches her tongue to the blood.

My favorite thing about "Out There" the song, apart from its being perfect in every way, is how Juliana 
changes her mind in the final chorus. The last lyric of the bridge is "Went away and tried to come back/Maybe I shouldn't have done that," and then she goes from singing "I know it's out there, it must be out there somewhere" to "There's nothing out there, it's not out there anywhere." Owning up to regret and lack of hope is a crazy thing to pull off in a pop song, and Juliana Hatfield always does it masterfully. I'm so into the parts of the video when it's just her singing her head off and everyone else is blurred out and gone.


Everything you were born too late for but love anyway is automatically cooler than everything from your own time: you'll never know the reality of it, so you can make it into whatever kind of dream you want. That's generally true of all the dead-and-gone bands I obsess over, but with Blake Babies it's a little different. I think it's partly because they were so close to me (geography-wise, time-wise), but it's also got to do with there just being something patently uncool about them. I mean they're beautiful, and their songs are beautiful and often devastating, but there's also something very un-figured-out, preliminary, a tiny bit childlike. It makes me want to protect them, even though I know they're going to grow up amazingly and obviously don't need any protection.

So I want to babysit the Blake Babies, but I also want to go back in time and have them babysit me. I'm going to write a story about an eight-year-old girl and the most exciting night of her eight-year-old life, when a fictional version of Blake Babies are her babysitters. It will be the proto-grunge version of Adventures in Babysitting and then we'll all make it into a beautiful movie.


  1. Anonymous30.7.13

    You are welcome to come to Nashville and babysit my 8-year-old. I could use a night out. -JPS

    1. DEAL. anytime, john strohm

    2. Anonymous30.7.13

      One weird day at our apartment we were all home, along with Evan Dando, who was always there (probably 1988) Evan's mom came over with Carl Bernstein, you know, THE Carl Bernstein. They were on a date. Evan's mom and Carl left the boy at our apartment for an hour or so. He might have been 9 or 10. He was this huge music fan and he spent the whole time going through our records, making comments about each one. He loved Sonic Youth.

    3. holy cow! so amazing. also, please write a book. i actually had that thought when you wrote about the lemonheads playing at brookline country club a while back. if you need a ghostwriter i'm your man...

  2. these guys are all still devastatingly handsome

  3. Not sure how i found this post (freda's FB?), but i love it. Lately, I've been listening to 80s boston comedy (david cross etc), reading 80s MASS political pioneers (al giordano) and thinking that i was born 5 years too late and in the wrong region. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. you're so welcome! and i'm so charmed to find out that freda posted this on her facebook <3 <3

      p.s. the 33 1/3 book about 'meat is murder' is a really cool look at (suburban) boston in the mid-'80s