Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Lex Hall

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.

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