Bad//Dreems were formed over a decade ago in Adelaide, Australia and release their fourth studio album `Hoo Ha! ` this month. The band comprises Ben Marwe (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Alex Cameron (lead guitar, backing vocals), Alistair Wells (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Miles Wilson (drums). I read somewhere that they took their name from the bad dreams Alex Cameron says he’s prone to experience.
The album opens with `Waterfalls`, which takes direct lyrical influence from “Bad Boy Bunny”, Rold de Heer’s cult classic filmed in Adelaide. After listening to this track the film for me is a must watch. The track itself has some cinematic elements but seems like a release of frustration from the narrator on their journey of self-discovery. A delightfully intense opener and a real marker for what`s to follow. The pounding `Mansfield 6.0` describes the surreal events of September 2021 when inner city construction workers rioted on the streets of Melbourne protesting against mandatory vaccination, at the same time an earthquake shook the city (6.0 on the Richter scale at Mansfield). It appears to be viewed from somebody who is at the gathering and is awaiting the inevitable confrontation. We have crashing guitar riffs, and an almost forceful communal vocalisation that seems to mirror that day`s occurrence.
`Jack` is a heartfelt stream of consciousness that seems to reflect years of suppressed frustration and anger from the perspective of an indigenous person and what they have endured in their homeland. It`s shared over a grinding post-punk backdrop which mirrors the exasperation shared. We have a day in the life of.. in `Shame` which is a reeling punk diatribe about small town life and what the lack of life opportunities can ensue.
`Mallee` is a reflection on life as the narrator sees it in modern day Australia over a restrained musical platform that has some fairly intricate almost retro guitar chord riffs. We have a more thoughtful introspective piece in `No Island` a reflection on love and life possibly.
`Southern Heat` has a pulsing snarling intensity and becomes fairly anthemic nigh on a call to arms against the socio–economic inequality they perceive on a day-to-day basis. There may be a subtle nod through the title `Black Monday` to the catastrophic worldwide stock market crash on Oct 19th,1987 but it seems to be a portrayal of the drudgery of the everyday birth, school, work, death scenario set against a punk come early AC/DC-tinged refrain.
`Collapse! ` may be the tale of a mental health breakdown or meltdown set against a constant chugging guitar riff which gives it a slight reggae-ish vibe before it builds in volume and passion before ending abruptly. We have a bit of a curve ball with `New Breeze` which has flute tones, a guiding throbbing bassline and maybe even an organ leading us a merry dance through a feast of Australian slang, historical references, and contemporary culture. One to just relax and enjoy.
`Desert Television` is a pretty observational piece layered over a thumping stop start rock outing. A tale of the endless nigh on macho cycle of work and mindless play in the remoter parts of their vast homeland. There was a kind of stream of conciseness to `See You Tomorrow` which races along as the narrator spits out thoughts running through their head as well as more considered regional and more personal local observations.
`Godless` is a mediative reflective piece seemingly brought on by the festive season which has stirred a ruminative examination on the past and changes that have occurred since childhood which maybe aren`t all positive. The country / americana tinged musical accompaniment adds to the overall poignancy of the number. The album closes out with title track `Hoo Ha! ` which is a strange aural soundscape akin to a tape running out or unspooling.
`Hoo Ha! ` is slang for a state or condition of excitement, agitation, or disturbance and this probably sums up Bad//Dreems latest opus better than anything I could conjure up.
It`s a delightfully intense, powerful, and compelling listen. At times part spoken word, part sung but always full on. It was a sometimes challenging but rewarding listen where some of the cultural references passed me by as they were `Oz` specific but they are a band steeped in social consciousness.
They describe themselves as a “rough and tumble brand of jangling rock and roll” and for me that`s more than enough.
Rating 8.5 / 10