Overall Score: 7.5/10 Songwriting: 7/10 Ballads: 8/10 Inspiration: 7.5/10 Pros: A well research amalgamation of influences | More interesting than your standard 00s/10s indie fare Cons: The more punky beginning of the album is less inspired than subsequent tracks
The regional accent is often under utilised in music. There are exceptions of course; Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys had found fame through his blunt Yorkshire delivery, David Bowie’s faux-cockney drawl on the title track of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is iconic, and really most of the 00s UK indie boom traded on an honesty in vocal style. But still, we do find that time and again in popular music a certain accent is affected for the sake of unit shifting. Homogenised music sells by the shed load, and anything deviating from the norm is seen as either a brave departure or an expendable commodity – usually the latter. Not content with imitation of the Valley Girl voice are Australian quintet Bad//Dreems, who bring an authentically antipodean flair to their indie rock on third album, Doomsday Ballet.
The band have a penchant for infectious lyricism: Opening track, Morning Rain, has a refrain of ‘you were the morning, and I was the rain’ that immediately sticks in mind through its simplicity and imitable cadence. Being able to sing along to songs is a staple of the genre; very rarely does indie rock try to deviate from formulae and alienate the listener, and Bad//Dreems have this vital factor nailed. Piss Christ and Double Dreaming feature similarly catchy songwriting chops, both with a bratty energy and rambunctiousness that has more in common with the off kilter oddity DEVO, than much of their traditional peer group. This isn’t indie in the vein of Pixies, or more contemporary artists, but instead a bizarre look at a genre that has been tainted by its own 00s mainstream appeal.
The slowing of pace in the album’s middle section allows the stark, Larkinesque realism of the lyrics to shine. Harry’s Station and Cannonball are forlorn and atmospherically moody numbers that allow space for ideas to breathe, particularly in the literal sense of the dreamy guitar lines. It’s not unfair to say that at lower beats per minute counts the band come into their own, with the songs proving a much more enlightening prospect than in their relatively punky counterparts. Musically the more snot nosed songs are standard fare; histrionic guitars played with an attacking nature not dissimilar to Vampire Weekend’s early work, and walking bass lines that thud atop a dexterous percussive performance. These songs are less inspired than the aforementioned ballads and the likes of Sally’s Place, but still have their place in making the record a dynamic experience rather than a one note lull through a genre that has been done to death.
While working in indie in 2019 can be a bit like beating a dead horse, Bad//Dreems prove that the genre is still of worth with eloquent craftsmanship and inspired lyrical content. The unfaltering realism of their dystopian isolationism, suburban ennui and examination of the post truth world reaches its zenith on Low Life, perhaps the best track of a good bunch. Taking influences from 70s and 80s indie as well as unusual American exports like Wipers, DEVO and Television, Doomsday Ballet is a rather inspired record that is a cohesive marvel. The album flows fluidly through its movements, from brash punky opening through to sombre acoustics in penultimate and final songs Northern and Younger, and rarely feels jarring or ill conceived. A multifaceted record that leaves room for reflection as much as inciting excitement, it is laudably put together and highly enjoyable.
Doomsday Ballet is out via BMG on 18th October 2019