Gutful Bad Dreems Ivy League One of the chief enthusiasms of Adelaide indie rock quartet Bad Dreems is the ugliness of Australia. The leafy wide streets of conservative Adelaide repel them.
Their habitat is the abandoned warehouses on the city fringe, places like Elizabeth, which, with their anomie and isolation, conjure up unsettling reminders of South Australia’s dark past. Snowtown, the Family Murders, the Beaumont children: there are hints of this backdrop in the Bad Dreems videos, which usually consist of young bearded blokes getting pissed and wrestling.
This mode de vie extends to the band’s artistic sensibilities: you can spot a Bad Dreems release straight away because the cover typically depicts a broken old man, with a smoke or beer, probably homeless, crippled by the generalised misery of existence.
Gutful, Bad Dreems’ first full album, obeys that aesthetic. It’s a mix of power-chord grunge pop and acoustic melancholy. Simple riffs, the odd harmony.
The first of the 11 tracks, Johnny Irony, is a driving chord progression that reminds you a little of Radio Birdman’s Do the Pop. The title track has a tight groove and is a happy reminder that there is a sense of humour amid the nihilistic machismo. “I’ve had a gutful of Donald Trump,” sings Ben Marwe, “I’ve had a gutful of your baby bump.” Marwe’s voice is hit-and-miss. He’s at his best on songs such as Pagan Rage, an acoustic, Paul Kelly-style ballad. Otherwise, he tends to fall into that tuneless drone of Custard’s Dave McCormack.
The last track, Million Times, is an another acoustic slow burner with a Lou Reed-style saxophone line. It’s a mature coda this album desperately needs. Marwe’s voice doesn’t quite match the sophistication of the song but it grows on you — as do Bad Dreems.