by Chris Familton
Mix small town pessimism, youthful optimism, suburban nihilism and a lo-fi aesthetic and you have some of the ingredients that make the essential sound of Bad//Dreems on their superb Badlands EP. The Adelaide natives have been teasing/threatening us for a while now with a string of singles (Chills, Tomorrow Mountain and Caroline) and now those songs plus another trio of equally terrific tracks comprise the EP.
Chills leads things off with its melancholic drunken sway, or perhaps it’s a booze blues hangover feel that permeates the track. The guitar is all chiming and woozy with its sing-song melody that builds up gorgeous layers of sound. It’s a warm, fuzzy and bucolic feel, a soundtrack for reminiscence that works equally well as the backdrop to a summer cruise to the beach. The vibe carries through to Hoping For, the most mature song in the set. There is a desperation and conviction in Ben Marwe’s voice as he sings “I feel like I could change”. There’s that optimism burning a hole in the song. When they hit that chorus and Miles Wilson’s drums pushes the song along with added urgency the whole song lifts into another place altogether.
The lo-fi aesthetic I mentioned earlier is certainly an important one but the band are clever to only use it as a reference, a connector to some semblance of a slacker mood. Sonically the EP is anything but lo-fi, indeed on a song like Home Life that comes across like Violent Soho and Nirvana battling for control over a mosh pit the sound is ferocious and raw but still widescreen and intense. Caroline nails a mid point between that brashness and the hook-laden jangle and riff side of their songwriting. With prominent bass and Marwe’s pleading and shredded vocals it is yet another highpoint.
Tomorrow Mountain sees Bad//Dreems delving into dark and murky territory with Alex Cameron’s heavily reverbed guitar clanging as effectively as it weaves antagonistic and pained post-punk riffs. The track reminds me of the much missed band The Scare and showcases the balance of the band in terms of writing across the emotional spectrum.
Fittingly they leave us where we first found them, back in that love-lost, forlorn, sun damaged, sepia toned state of mind. The guitars continue to casually fire off clusters of notes that bury deep in your memory. The bass sits comfortably between rhythm and melody and much like Lower Plenty’s Hard Rubbish LP (2012) they transport you to that happy/sad place where you feel inside the music rather than just a casual observer. If Bad//Dreems can keep writing songs to this standard their debut LP will be a real treat but in the meantime Badlands is another crucial addition to the canon of classic and quintessentially Australian releases.
Badlands is out now on Mirador Records