CULTURE ABUSE broaden their horizons on colourful second LP
‘There wasn’t always a place to go, but there was always an urgent need to belong,’ sang Rancid’s Tim Armstrong on Journey To The End Of The East Bay, before asking, ‘What you gonna do when everybody goes on without you?’ It often seems easier to leave than to be left behind, but Bay Dream finds Culture Abuse’s David Kelling writing from the opposite perspective. After releasing their Peach debut in 2016, David left friends and family in San Francisco to move downstream to Los Angeles. Throw in signing to Epitaph and shipping across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time last year, and it’s little wonder that Bay Dream sounds caught in a blur between nostalgia for the past and hunger for the future.
Third track Dip fizzes with that particular ambivalence. It may be propelled along by stabbing guitars, but between homesickness and tour inertia David insists, ‘Time keeps dragging like a big slug, I get squashed like a big bug.’ Elsewhere, Rats In The Walls recalls the band’s old pest-infested apartment in San Francisco through the story of punk tearaway, Judy. Although David urges her to leave the nightlife and bed bugs behind, the jaunty fairground organ betrays a bittersweet fondness for that time, because things that drive you nuts are often the same things that make you laugh when you catch sight of them in the rearview mirror.
Reflecting this personal disorientation, Bay Dream takes the fuzzy sweetness of Peach and turns the colour saturation up to 11. Eco-friendly parable Bee Kind To The Bugs is laid on concrete rhythms, yet John Jr and Nick Bruder’s wobbly guitars are drenched in sun-dazed psychedelia, David’s slacker drawl, meanwhile, trails off with the urge to ‘Burn my clothes, sell my car, I fell in another world.’ Yet even at their most far-out and power-poppy, the Bay crew still retain their scrappy charm. Calm E is a streetwise punk-rock belter with its barking dogs, beatup cars and bouncing power chords, but it’s just that more light is let in now for the melodies to bloom, as the bridge explodes with wide-eyed wonder and hazy vocal harmonies, as if the band are floating off into a Technicolor sky.
As a nostalgic love letter to old haunts and familiar faces, Bay Dream is a heartfelt reminder that pursuing a dream can take its toll. But if you’re lucky, those old friends will support you, as David grins on S’why, ‘I feel you pushing me forward to the place I wanna go.’ And in the resultant dizzying whirl of kaleidoscopic guitars and life moving at 100 miles a minute, Culture Abuse sound right at home.