The return of pub rock
IT WAS ONCE A TIME OF CHISEL, AC/DC AND TH E OI LS. NOW, ADELAIDE FOUR-PIECE BAD// DREEMS ARE TAKING THE CLASSIC AUSSIE MUSIC GENRE AND UPDATING IT FOR A NEW GENERATION.
Donald Trump, the credit crunch, racist jokes, the coward punch, Australia Day and the USA are just some of the things Adelaide rock band Bad//dreems has “had a gutful of”. It’s a statement made in ‘Gutful’, the title track of the band’s sophomore album, which dropped in April this year. “It’s not meant to be directed from a specific side of politics to the other, it’s more a global statement of how pathetic everything is at the moment – on the left, the right and everywhere,” explains guitarist Alex Cameron. “We’re trying to capture the feelings of people like ourselves and write dialogue that’s just the average person speaking about issues that are important.” Bursting with antipodean grunt and observational angst, ‘Gutful’ aims to catch the anger, frustration and disillusionment simmering in the world – tackling chauvinism, violence, gender identity, racism and religion, and topped off with a pub rocksounding stamp. Despite the fact the ‘pub rock’ label wasn’t particularly welcomed by the band at first, it makes sense. Bad//dreems has been working with producer Mark Opitz, the godfather of Aussie rock (AC/DC, INXS, Cold Chisel, The Angels) since album number one. “It certainly wasn’t what we felt were the traditions we wanted to be involved with,” says Cameron, noting the rough connotations of the genre. “But it basically just describes a genre of music in Australia when most of the venues were big beer holes, and the crowds were rowdy and those crowds wanted driving and drinking music.” But by ragging on coward punches, Australia Day, white patriotism and sexism, Bad//dreems are looking to reject the genre’s macho undertones. “Truly, what better way to address the crudity and the chauvinism that you’re talking about than from within a genre that is maligned as being such a thing?” he says. “And the other thing is, it’s a way to explore the complexities of being Australian and a genre that is seen as a cultural cringe.” Let’s not forget, behind the beerswilling, rum-and-coke-fuelled fights that define many people’s ideas of pub rock, Midnight Oil wrote about Aboriginal land rights, INXS addressed racism and Cold Chisel often echoed the disillusionment of the ‘Working Class Man’, not to mention the Vietnam War. Cameron laughs: “The joke is on the person that put that label on, because they obviously haven’t really listened to [Chisel songwriter] Don Walker’s songs and seen the stories he tells.” Bad//dreems joins a sling of Aussie bands who have either broken through with debuts, made it big overseas or re-emerged of late. Think DMA’S, The Smith Street Band, Strangers, Violent Soho, Jet, Grinspoon, Midnight Oil and Frenzal Rhomb, to name a few. Are we done with DJS? Or is it another way we’re flipping that hard-yakka, cultural cringe on its back? See also: the resurgence of GQ’S 2016 Iconic Artist Ken Done and Melbourne duo Client Liaison, who’ve made bicentennial-chic cool again. “I hate to think that anything we do is seen as any sort of ironic gesture. What rock and roll is all about is taking what’s come before, building on it, and making it your own for the time and place that you’re in. Certainly we do take reference from some giants that have walked before us – especially in Australian music.”
BAD//DREEMS ARE TOURING BRISBANE, JUNE 8; SYDNEY, JUNE 9; MELBOURNE, JUNE 10; PERTH, JUNE 16; ADELAIDE, J UNE 17; BADDREEMS.COM