Bad//Dreems excellent fourth album HOO HA! is out on May 19th via Farmer & The Owl/BMG - check out our review of this rocker!
Formed in 2012, Bad//Dreems have risen from humble origins in an Adelaide whitegoods warehouse to be one of the most vital guitar acts in the country. Combining the Punk Rock of The Saints, the heavy riffs of AC/DC, the political conscience of Midnight Oil and the true-to-life lyrics of Mental As Anything, this album “critiques the modern (white) Australian male, in all his confusion, angst, fear and (latent) violence” according to guitarist Alex Cameron. (Fellow Antipodeans Amyl and the Sniffers, The Chats and Pist Idiots list the band as an influence).
Post-pandemic, the band convened in a small studio in Adelaide, located in a disused neo-gothic incinerator designed by Walter Burley Griffin and containing Billy Thorpe’s old Neve recording desk. They had been separated and spread across different states for over a year. Half of the band had been subjected to the 2nd longest lockdown in the world (268 days). “We had a new found appreciation and zest for being able to play together that created the energy of the album,“ explains vocalist Ben Marwe. .
Joined by guitarist Ali Wells and drummer Miles Wilson, Cameron and Marwe’s song writing collaboration aims “to strip away the veneer of comfortable Australian suburban banality to reveal the bizarre, the dark, the twisted and the beauty that lies beneath… We try to capture the experience of the everyday person but find within it with the romance of the lost highways the Never-Never, the terrifying vastness of the outback, the sordid colonial origins of Australia and the dystopian future that awaits” (Cameron)
Songs were compiled in the in the incinerator and then taken to Melbourne and recorded with Dan Luscombe (Amyl and the Sniffers, Courtney Barnett, The Drones) at Soundpark Studio. The result epitomises the power of Bad//Dreems literate pub rock, where high and low culture collide to paint a vivid picture of our times.
The album opens with Waterfalls, a menacing slab of gospel punk, where the protagonist prowls the streets of Adelaide, unclear whether he is villain or victim. It takes direct lyrical influence from Bad Boy Bunny, Rold de Heer’s cult classic filmed in Adelaide (incidentally celebrating its 30th anniversary this year).
Track 2 and first single Mansfield 6.0 describes the surreal evens of September 2021 when inner city construction workers rioted on the streets of Melbourne, protesting mandatory vaccination, at the same time an earthquake shook the city (6.0 on the Richter scale at Mansfield). A great Punk number to boot!
Jack is a song written by Cameron and Marwe to take aim at their forebears for the sanitisation of Australian history: “In my school they taught the Russian revolution, The stump jump plough and the Roman Constitution, No Bennalong, Namatjira, no William Barak, Beds are burning always will be gotta give it back, What you think about that Jack? 60 thousand years gotta give it back“
Third track Shame documents the band’s relationship with their hometown of Adelaide; “Drinking through the mundane“, the guitar wailing along with the lyrics.
The chaotic and often sordid first 50 years of Australia as a colony are explored in Mallee – “Australia did not begin as a well-planned utopia; rather it was a poorly thought out and poorly executed prison colony, that nearly failed on a number of occasions“.
No Island takes us back to Adelaide, nostalgia for the town of their childhood juxtaposed with the claustrophobic ennui of a small, isolated city. Southern Heat explores this further, an angrier song rallying against the boorishness and racism of the lowest common denominator of the white Australian male.
Consumerist culture is the subject of Black Monday, with fast, urgent drumming hammering home the message that we’re racing towards something which does us no good at all. Collapse! is an epic song – the big problems of the world need a big tune, and Bad//Dreems provide it!
New Breeze employs a synthetic flute to great effect with a nod to Hee-Haw by The Birthday Party – the band set out to capture the frustration, malaise, and confusion of the post-pandemic world. “We looked forward to a utopia at the end of the pandemic, but life is never that simple. You end up just pissing in a different breeze,” says Alex Cameron.
Desert Television describes the the suburban boredom and loneliness of eking out an existence in today’s world. Towering synths make this song stand out.
See You Tomorrow continues Cameron and Marwe’s exploration of the Australian male psyche; “This portrayal is fraught, as we, to an extent, are they. We wonder whether this has confused our audience over the years. Regardless we feel we are in the position to stand against misogyny, chauvinism and racism” adds Cameron.
Godless returns us to Adelaide, looking back on the history of the city, and its style is so Mental As Anything it could easily have been written by the Mentals!
Final track Hoo Ha! winds the old-fashioned tape down, complete with crackling and distortion, a nod to yesteryear where all was not as golden as some may think..
“There was a significant possibility that we may never have been able to record or play together again. If we were to do so I made a pledge to say exactly what I wanted to and make music true to only ourselves. Bugger the consequences,” states Cameron. There is no doubt that they have achieved this with each of the 14 tracks on the album.
HOO HA! sees a triumphant Bad//Dreems at the top of their game. It should see them firmly ensconced embedded in the canon of independent, literate Australian music that has sought to define the true character of this great Southern land.
Bad//Dreems will be touring the album on the following dates:
Fri 23 Jun 2023: Adelaide – Hindley Street Music Hall, Adelaide SA (with Children Collide, Cable Ties & Twine)
Tickets and info HERE
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‘Usually found jumping around down the front at gigs, I also relish taking photos and videos, singing, speaking with fellow music fans, and asking musicians the questions nobody else does Writing about my favourite bands and connecting with people who love music too keeps me more-or-less sane I’ve worked for over 25 years at a video production company, mainly filming live music events, therefore I have an additional backstage perspective!’