Bad Suns | Language & Perspective | Rating: 8.1 /11 |
If Bad Suns have one thing going for them, it’s that they’ve just proven themselves more than ready and able to bottle and sell a perfectly produced musical aesthetic. Now if that sounds like a dig against the Southern California indie rockers, trust that it’s not.
In their disarmingly short time as a fully formed and functioning band (they were ‘born’ in 2012), having one of 2014’s most radio ready, melody tight and singable songs, “Cardiac Arrest,” explode from their first EP has served Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) in the ways that years of hard touring, dues paying and blind luck usually would. They’ve already performed on late night television (Conan O’Brien), been main support on a major tour and signed to Vagrant Records all within two years of their arrival. Culling their sound from music that made its most dramatic impact in the 80s and 90s, you hear those influences coming through this young band in 2014 without mimicry or, worse, irony.
With all of its 11 tracks checking in under the four-minute mark, Language & Perspective succeeds outright as well as in increments that are genuinely impressive considering the relative youth of its creators (22 being the band’s age ceiling). Consider the challenge of meeting, let alone superseding, the imprint left by “Cardiac Arrest.” Even if the masses continue to deem the song the band’s best bit of work to date, there’s no shortage of depth or hooks throughout Language & Perspective to encourage repeated listening and – in truth – the songwriting gets better. The outright success is in a full-length record that sounds like it truly belongs to itself: no song feels misplaced and no production takes an odd or indulgent turn as producer Eric Palmquist (Wavves, Mars Volta) ensures a frictionless flow and on-point capture of Bad Suns’ sound. Bowman’s lush vocals (think Robert Smith sans the yelp-ishness and Brandon Flowers minus the insecurity) are rightfully clear and high in the mix which is important because you want to hear his lyrical combination of youth, young manhood and what sounds like insomnia.
There’s an overall sleekness here, coupled with new wave undertones, that just screams California summer: even the guitars on the album’s opener, “Matthew James” have an aquatic feel. And the sounds of summer just keep coming from the disco groove, dance floor and remix-ready “Salt” (remixes have already happened, actually) to the breezy longing in “We Move Like The Ocean” to “Dancing On Quicksand.” Again, this is not a dig: this is cohesion as opposed to a schizophrenic offering or unfortunate lapses into experimentation just because a band can. Lyrical precision and the occasional well-placed metaphor seem in tune with where they are in their collective lives as young men in the world and the combination of Libby’s jittery guitars, the stellar drum foundation laid by Morris and Bennett’s sturdy bass frames each song so that everything is sonically upright, symmetrical and yet hardly lulling. And if there’s one song on the album that you’ll probably find yourself wishing extended well past its 3:06 minute mark, it’s “Rearview.”
The bottom line is Bad Suns have made a smart record, a tight record and one that, hopefully, only hints at their potential – especially that of Bowman’s vocals. And with a possible nod towards the future, they’ve successfully tested the waters of their progression as a band on the back end of the album with “Sleep Paralysis” and “Learn To Trust.”
Essential Tracks: “Cardiac Arrest,” “Sleep Paralysis,” “Rearview”