I’m a bit late to the party with Bad Sounds: apparently everyone else decided they were God’s gift to music last year. BBC Radio One’s Annie Mac honoured them with hottest record in the world at one point, they’ve played Glastonbury, Bestival, and music press from 2016 seems to be crawling with praise for these Bath-hailing brothers. Their second EP Mixtape One was released recently. If they weren’t already, Bad Sounds really ought to be on your radar.
On first hearing songs like “Wages“, I was prepared to pigeon-hole Bad Sounds as exceptionally listenable indie-rock. The kind of songs that get trapped in your head quickly and you are convinced are the best thing ever, until you forget them even quicker.
Consensus seems to brand them as indie-funk/pop or else the unhelpful catch-all of “alternative”. The earlier material hints at Gorillaz, and they sound a lot like their new-and-noteworthy contemporaries Superfood, The Magic Gang, and maybe a less obnoxious RATBOY (who they supported last year).
I’m cautiously enthused here – these bands have all encapsulated me briefly; I listened to RATBOY almost exclusively for about a month and then possibly haven’t listened since. On the flipside, The Magic Gang have somehow retained my favour. Bad Sounds, along with all the aforementioned groups, have this viral quality, that seems to have captured me and the music world alike.
Looking further, Bad Sounds have a really hefty set of influences, from hip-hop to indie rock to electronica to R&B undertones. This is starting to come through a lot more on Mixtape One.
Its a slightly self-indulgent five track, which is actually three tracks padded out with three minutes of explosive intro, rowdy conversation and finally a fairly ridiculous “thank you for listening” groove. The result is a bit like a weird pseudo concept-EP, if such a thing exists. It’s rather original to get fourteen minutes of completely connected songs.
“Living Alone” is a neat track, starting to indicate the shift to a more samply and funky permutation of the group. Its a good example of pairing rather bleak lyrics with almost laughably upbeat tunes – “I guess nothing appeals to me” is half of the refrain. Older track “Meat on My Bones” further illustrates this, announcing “everybody thinks of dying at times, I just think of it too much” backed by a Stevie Wonder style organ riff.
After 52 seconds of “skit” announcing “Kelly doesn’t get enough sleep”, we segue seamlessly into our second actual track, “Hot Head Chippenham”.
This one is synth driven, and will satisfy fans of Bad Sound’s earlier songs like “Wages”, being bubbly, lyrically comical and terribly listenable. Hot Head Chippenham harks back to the Madchester scene (despite a setting some two hundred miles away), with kind of awkward rap-chatter of The Chemical brothers and Happy Mondays rhythms.
Thirty six seconds of slightly luxurious “reprise” create a tasteful mood shift to the relative gloom of “Enough”. It’s a moody blend of punchy bass riff, ethereal synth loops and whiny vocal samples. Over this, Merrett (vocals) speculates lazily about the hopes of the Pope, coupled with the rather opaque refrain to “pass the tissues” – presumably to deal with “all the issues”.
“Enough” is grim, cool, and has a sense of enduring quality I don’t automatically get from the rest of the EP. I feel like it’d make great backing music for a feature film about the decay of urban youth, if anyone’s searching.
A minute and a half of funkadelia thanking their friends and supporters concludes Mixtape One. It’d be easy to pigeon-hole Bad Sounds as “best new thing” and be done with it – everyone else did that last year.
The real question is whether this hype is due to last, and it is a tricky one – the excitement surrounding the five piece does seem to have depleted a bit. Yet the new release is more inventive, and perhaps therefore possessing more lasting significance. So the verdict is still out, but the music is great. Stay tuned.
Purchase Bad Sounds Mixtape One EP on iTunes here.
Words by Immy Hequet