Bad//Dreems is beautiful, no-nonsense grit in HOO-HA!
Whoever said rock is dead needs to get their arse to Adelaide. She said, with genuinely no irony whatsoever.
Our southron friends Bad//Dreems have come out guns blazing with their fourth album HOO-HA! today, A 14-track scorcher that’ll leave ciggie burns on the carpet and smoke coming out your ears.
Aptly named, the album is a one-two, no-nonsense punch, with the jangly, thumping Aussie pub rock belying a piercing and thoughtful lyricism.
A motley crew in themselves, the four piece consisting of Ben Marwe (artistic landscaper and lead vocalist), Alex Cameron (reconstructive plastic surgeon, lead guitarist and song writer), Alistair Wells (hotel co-owner and rhythm guitarist), and Miles Wilson (art designer, producer and drummer) curated HOO-HA! In that strange time post-pandemic.
“There was a significant possibility that we may never have been able to record or play together again,” said Cameron.
“If we were to do so i made a pledge to say exactly what i wanted and make music true to only ourselves.
Bugger the consequences.”
Clever, penetrative, twisty and spat at you in a lightning fast staccato, the boys of Bad//Dreems have pulled references to everything from Allen Ginsberg poetry and Infinite Jest to Sunrise’s David Koshy and a specific closed-down pizza joint in Adelaide. This cocktail of high and low brow grabs keeps things very interesting.
With those shouty, roughly-accented vocals and whirlwind of loud guitar and angry percussion, you may first mistakenly think a tune to be one from The Chats (perhaps with better rhythm and instrumental layering) or even the Sex Pistols (with finer taste and much less murder).
However, that would be selling them short by several marks.
Given a closer listen you find more dimensions in each song than a recent Marvel movie, with wry observational humour, cultural criticism and a cache of emblematic characters that piece together modern Australian culture.
“The characters played in songs like Waterfalls, See you tomorrow and Mansfield 6.0 are often critiques of the modern (white) Australian male, in all his confusion, angst, fear and (latent) violence,” said Cameron.
“This portrayal is fraught, as we, to an extent, are they.
“We do wonder whether this has confused our audience over the years.
“Regardless we feel we are in the position to stand against misognyny, chauvinism and boorishness, as well as the lowest common denominator portrayal of our culture that other groups gravitate to.”
Starting with the ominous ‘Waterfalls’, we have a muted but thrumming melody underneath a story about a grey-scaled loner who may or may not have lost his mind, escalating beautifully to a cascade of angry choir in the chorus. Screaming that one is beautiful and wonderful like waterfalls is always a strong start,
Next is the first release single, ‘Mansfield 6.0’ – a rough and tumble bit of pub prose that sings from the perspective of a protesting and piss drunk tradie at the 2021 Mansfield anti-vax riots, whose jovial demonstration of his civil rights was rudely interrupted by Melbourne’s biggest earthquake, a 6.0 on the Richter scale, in half a century.
‘Jack’, released as the second single, makes the first in a string of songs about indigenous injustice and the “deep time” embedded in Australia’s land. It’s a scathing hit at the Australian education system’s funky old habit of censoring its countries own dark history and instead plugging kids with vital information regarding the stump jump plough and the Roman constitution. A rollicking listacle of oft-forgotten indigenous figures and the wrongs done to the worlds oldest surviving culture, this is a banger that will have you filled with the fires of injustice as you shout it. Very Midnight Oil à la ‘Beds are Burning’.
Opening with the lighter, summery-butter guitar tuning, with the not so lighthearted chorus of “shame / its filling me with shame!,” ‘Shame’ is a bit of existential, self effacing rage at what a life has amounted to.
‘Mallee’ is a visceral one. A rolling blues bass, with a strong current of palpable anger in the gritty vocals, the message about forgetting, spitting on and co-opting the intricacies of our countries history leaves you feeling a bit raw:
“The politicians peddle / The newsrooms build the pyre/ Got me nailed to cross/ As the flames grow higher.
Trampling sacred ground/ Cursing at the sun/ Leering at the ancient land/ The ending has begun.”
We lean into a smoother range for ‘No Island’, a sad ballad about loneliness and love lost. Devoted to a Helen of Troy, empires will fall type broad, this one.
‘Southern Heat’ is another high instrumentally and lyrically intense tune. Done with the frustrated energy of itchy boiling summer heat under your skin, this ditty reels you into the whirlwind of realising how hopelessly f*cked we all are. That old chestnut.
Bouncing it back into anarchically wry gear, ‘Black Monday’ has a spitting lines quality, against a sliding guitar range that Bad//Dreems themes this album.
A breath of fresh air, ‘Collapse’ has a pleasing peak and trough current, smoothly philosophical in the talk of falling faith with wide spaced melody on the verses before Marwe commands “Collapse” at the entrance of the chorus. It obligingly does, leaving us with a rich clutch of guitar and hearts all a flutter, heads all a-banging.
Tucked in the middle is the latest single, ‘New Breeze’ – grime spitting from the gritty guitar lines and a heavy footed bit of bass, the jaunty little flute solo is a swipe of Ajax, bringing a bit of levity and clean dimension to the tune.
Accompanied by an absolutely cooked music video, Cameron said their fourth single is a more realistic look at life after Covid-19.
“We looked forward to a utopia at the end of the pandemic, but life is never that simple,” he said.
“You end up just pissing in a different breeze”
With a tunnelling bit of piano and a gracefuln swoop of slide, the melody of ‘Desert Television’ reminds me deeply of an early 2000’s dystopian kids show. Another rapid fire spitter, though this one got somewhat lost int he midst of the other high energy tunes.
Next is third single ‘See You Tomorrow’, a good monotonous riff shuffled over with a stream of niche Australian references and a heady subterranean chorus that references back to the key motif of Australia’s “deep” time. Each line spewed out at high speed spars with the one before, making a dynamic listen – not to mention the excellent witticism of “Lock the doors, order in chaos, I’ll see you tomorrow!”
Penultimate track ‘Godless’ is a quick left turn. With almost tuneful singing against the melancholy of a slow dripping chordal slide, this one feels very vulnerable. A small glimpse of an underbelly and one of my favourites.
Ending the album is its namesake track, a 60 second instrumental that sounds a bit like an evator jazz record slowly melting in the heat, until its warped to haunted clown music. Reckon they might have been playing with something there.
Not to speak on anyones behalf but I think HOO-HA! does a pretty accurate job of portraying modern Australia – fun, boozy and up for a rollicking good time at first glance, but when you actually get a closer look, grimy, rotting in some places and covering up a fair bit with superficial bullsh*t.
This cut is Bad//Dreems at their most concentrated and visceral and is arguably, their best yet.
Hats off to you lads.
HOO HA! Album Tour 2023
Friday, 23rd June
Hindley St Music Hall, Adelaide
Saturday, 24th June
Corner Hotel, Richmond – Melbourne
Friday, 30th June
The Triffid, Newstead – Brisbane
Saturday, 1st July
The Factory Theatre, Marrickville – Sydney