Des Moines, Iowa's Bad Friends play smart, literate guitar-centric indie rock, that has mainlined the message of late '90s and early '00s hardcore, emo and progressive art rock, distilling what's great and ditching the rest.
With album opener "Tourniquet" on their self-titled EP Bad Friends they come across as a jazz-inflected prog punk band, similar to the best emo-indebted music from the early '00s, like At The Drive In or The Blood Brothers and we are reminded of how much is possible when punks decide to learn to play. The drums play an impossibly fast shuffle-skip-beat, while clean guitars rage and strum in the margins, breaking the wall of distortion. "Tourniquet" also brings to mind the recently reformed The Dismemberment Plan, and has a similar blend of twitch, flail and groove, and brings out the caustic wit of that era of indie rock; super sharp, nearly cutting, while still being heartfelt.
That was the potential and the promise of the era - music could be edgy and raucous, but still be romantic, or heroic. It was the sound of too-smart kids, sequestered away in nowhere, hunkering down and mastering their guitars and drums, creating treasuries of Art, trying to survive whatever backwater suburb they were stuck in.
The music benefits from this, as punk rock, as energy and vitality, is evergreen and important. It is quite simply the sound of youth revolt condensed into cheap distortion pedals and power chords. It's the sound of not being willing to wait, of feeling like you have something to say even if you're not equipped to say it. The problem is that once most people find punk, it is in its cartoonish variation, and people are too content to merely mimic the revolutions of the '70s, as if they were British youth with liberty spikes, on the dole.
This is just not reality for most of us. We need a timelier punk that we can all relate to. The early '00s indie/emo style has elements of hardcore punk, jazz rock and extreme styles, like grindcore or noise to create a sonic stew more in line with our daily lives, listening to many, many different styles of music. This means there is the real potential to cross over, as Bad Friends won't appeal only to one mood or one type of person.
After the upbeat thrash attack of "Tourniquet" things take a surprising turn for the lovely and stays that way. The rest of this short EP features high, nearly operatic vocals, pure and heartfelt, while clean guitars loop and lope in patterns of interlocking harmonies. As with most heroic music, the success comes from the vocals. Eric McCoy's lead vocals are clean, clear, bright and powerful. He hits the high notes effortlessly, and carries the epic heroic vibe. It is, quite simply, the difference between bands like Radiohead or Tool, who both feature vocalists that can pull off the high notes convincingly, and a whiny, tinny indie band (I want to reference Dashboard Confessional, but it always my instinct to reference that band when discussing annoying, grating emo punk). I feel like the abrasiveness prevents a listener from falling completely under a song's spell. Of course, its practitioners would argue that is part of the point. It's music that's meant to provoke and possibly antagonize. Still, it's hard to listen, or let in, someone who is constantly attacking you. Bad Friends manage to maintain the energy and edginess, without turning anyone away at the door, by subsuming the harsh edges in cumulus formations of windswept guitar, and gorgeous vocals.
Without the grating element, the rest of the instruments are free to range and explore, to sell their qualities without fear. The guitars are minimal and perfectly placed, sounding like sunlight on the tops of clouds as on the album closer "Three" and reminds us of that time when post-rock was infusing over into other styles of rock 'n roll and it seemed like anything was possible. Music could be beautiful, but still muscular. Here was music that proved you could be emotional and still be strong. Metal for mathematicians and punk for Ph. D.'s. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with those styles in their more primitive forms, it's just that music like Bad Friends has a wider emotional vocabulary, and is more honest and representative of real life.
The Bad Friends EP is the culmination of two years of work. The band is doing a major push across the Midwest to celebrate its inception. So keep your eyes peeled on your local listings and let's wish luck on this group of smart and sensitive axe wielders.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook