One could argue that punk music has never really gone out of style, with a thriving scene in certain U.S. hotspots like New Jersey and Manhattan. Others might say that the recent trend of so-called pop-punk has contributed to the death of true punk. Long Island– and Daytona Beach–based band Bad Luck don’t seem to be on either side of the fence––frankly, they don’t give a damn. Their debut LP Cold Bones is, as one of the band members totes in a promotional photo, a giant middle finger to the world.
It’s easy for the casual listener to write off Bad Luck as another punk band, and to some extent, they might be right. Songs like “Wooden Townhouse” would be indistinguishable from any other song blared on a skatepark video reel with its nasally vocals yelping angsty lyrics like the closing below-the-belt shot of “I hate me, and I blame you.” The band veer dangerously close into pop-punk territory there; the chorus consists of those feel-good major chords with a saccharine lead guitar line. The pop-culture-reference-titled “Threat Level Midnight” finds the band mastering the “blue collar punk” sound with which they are often associated, as they’ve been compared to the retro-punk act The Gaslight Anthem. True enough, they sound like a way more pissed-off version of TGA––more along the lines of a band like Make Do and Mend. Bad Luck sound as if their upbringings and their namesake are simultaneous, which they very well may be. There’s a lot of release in these ten terse songs, and even the nascent punk listener can hear that.
Then again, perhaps the album is a treasure trove of uninhabited emotion and viscerally expressed thought crafted with melodic sensibility and architect-like structure. “Graphic Novel(s)” is a lovely, alt-influenced rocker with a memorable urban lyricscape that is well deserving of its three-and-a-half minutes. Here, the band seem firmly moored in their roots and influences––perhaps one of the debut’s defining moments. And “Lantern Park” is a valediction for a former lover with hard-hitting lyrical images and raw acoustic tones. The chorus’s penultimate line, however misaligned (“please fornicate with me”) is thankfully redeemed by its last (“you are the only one I want to share my body with”). As is the case with a youthful, angry band, the album reeks of emotion, and it’s left to the listener to decide if it’s an overripe stench or an acquired, lively taste. Bad Luck strike some good chords on Cold Bones, but their maturation will really show where their virtues––or vices––lie.