Album Review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

Bad//Dreems – four dudes from Adelaide with an affinity for the oft-forgotten backslash. They wear mud-smeared uniforms, and beards slash their faces; their first t-shirt parodied the West End Beer Logo. As for their music, the band unleash their guitars in droves, fuzz hurled at the listener with a reckless, growling grin. It’s straightforward rock and roll, entrenched in pub rock tradition, with the records of Cold Chisel, Coloured Balls and The Angels still ringing in the ears.

Bad//Dreems are easy to fall in love with, especially for the average Australian. What better way to soundtrack the sweet summers of ’13 and ’14 than with a few tinnies snuck from Dad’s fridge, beach body envy and some rock music that makes you wanna to throw your fist in the air?

But anyone who’s delved into Bad//Dreems discography and actually cared to flick their ears on will soon be switched onto the subversive, self-deprecating nature of the band. Between the impassioned ocker riffs and pounding drums is self-doubt, and equal dolings of homage and criticism to Australian culture. Nestled between the songs about girls are genuine moments of fucked-up, thrashing abandonment. It’s a powerful concoction, one that makes Bad//Dreems stand out from the rest of the bands that flood the carpets of the local.

This dual personality aspect of Bad//Dreems has never been stronger than on their debut, ‘Dogs At Bay’. All that boiling potential – the crashing riffs, the piercing solos, the suffocating waves of authentic rock and roll that was bred from a beer-soaked carpet – all of that shines through here. Packed equally with radio-ready singles and songs for the summer festival season as it is with contaminated black sheep, this record is a triumph.

‘Dogs At Bay’ opens with some of the most overtly subversive songs Baddies have ever released: “New Boys”, “Cuffed & Collared”, and “Bogan Pride”. Despite the ocker titles, Bad//Dreems take the piss in the most applaudable fashion since Jonathan Swift. They tackle overt masculinity with deftness, paired with sprawling, catatonic riffs soaked in the sweat of a body-builder. When Ben Marwe whispers “Big muscles fucking up my sweatshirt, big muscles pumping into my dreams!” before bellowing a nightmarish work out routine, the amount of shivers that rock the average listener’s mild frame is enough to halt even the most sturdy of pacemakers.

The whole record isn’t devoted to taking the piss on clueless blokes –  there’s plenty more to the Bad//Dreems camp than frustration. Spurred by chewing riffs, “Nadine” punches out the lights, an underdog boxer stuck in a corner, fighting their way out with pure fury, just trying to get to the fucking paradise that is Summer Hill. Then there’s the token track about girls – “Dumb Ideas”, which absolutely shreds the hell out of its subject matter. The main thing to be taken from that track is that everyone from Surry Hills is a piece of shit, which I thought was fairly obvious, but hey, the more people that know of the evil peril of that place, the better, amirite?

The face-melting rock is fantastic, and Bad//Dreems are doing it better than most, certainly. Hearing these songs on record, (or even better, at a show) and feeling a gut reaction to songs like “Dumb Ideas” and “Hiding to Nothing” is a cathartic experience, one that puts your clenched fist in the air with the rest and reduces your voice to that of Clint Eastwood after a pack of smokes. But there’s a lot of bands that can do that. What sets Bad//Dreems apart are the cracks in the record, where the humanity shows. “Ghost Gums”, “My Only Friend” and “Hume” are incredible songs, absolutely jaw-dropping, and help round out the album. They put the gnashing rock in perspective, and help make ‘Dogs At Bay’ a fucking album, as opposed to a series of singles. They’re delivered with humility and smarts, assuring that Bad//Dreems can’t be pigeonholed as a one off rock band doing a Barnesy impression.

With their ‘Dogs At Bay’, Bad//Dreems didn’t just suit the expectation, or impress. They went above and beyond, showing they could be just as at home writing a pop song as they were with a crushing riff or a tune laden with self-analysis. There needs to be more bands who sound like they have a wattle-bush stuck up their arse, who can reach the mainstream. Too many groups prefer to ape overseas ‘indie’ contemporaries. Fuck that, I want a band that sounds like they’ve just finished playing Goon of Fortune. Guess what? Bad//Dreems is that band. Hopefully, a shit tonne of people hear this album, and our pub rock culture will become richer for it, and soon, the dream of a million scrawny bands fighting

‘Dogs At Bay’ comes out Friday 21st of August on Ivy League Records, and Baddies will be playing OAF on the 9th of October w/ Green Buzzard and West Thebarton Brothel Party.

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