by Sam Carter
Of late, we’ve marvelled at how acts like Vampire Weekend and Bombay Bicycle Club have woven together melodies and rhythms so intricate that you could swim in them for hours without ever finding the bottom. But sometimes bands can excel by hitching their wagon to restless simplicity.
Since their formation in 2012, Southern California four-piece Bad Suns have stuck to the latter policy. The run-up to their first release has seen them share a stage with The 1975 and The Vaccines. The connection to these bands makes sense after listening to Transpose, an EP that boasts similarly sharp guitars, infectious hooks, and recent iTunes Single of the Week, “Cardiac Arrest”.
That song’s success is little surprise; packed with bright, sun-kissed electric guitar and slick lines like “high voltage in her lips,” Bad Suns are so effortless in their leap between verse and chorus that you hardly mind they make the transition so quickly. It’s all refreshingly straightforward; think The Pigeon Detectives’ brash refrains meshed with the serene cool of Two Door Cinema Club.
There are times when frontman Christo Bowman’s faraway lilt also recalls early Brandon Flowers, with a tendency to bounce confidently into each beat that renders even its more nasal moments forgiveable. It’s versatile, too; his voice takes on a rawer edge on the jagged post-punk riffs of ‘Transpose’ before throwing in some strong falsetto for the dance undertones of “Salt”. On both counts, Bowman’s vocals have been ably assisted by a healthy dose of steady percussion – arguably one of this record’s highlights.
So the biggest surprise here comes when that rhythm stutters on closing track “20 Years”. Bowman’s strangely garbled pronunciation of ‘twenty’ aside, it’s a comparatively mellow affair with a larger lyrical scope: “every day looks just the same.” And while it lacks the febrile energy of the preceding tracks, you can’t blame the band for wishing to add a little variation to their approach; something that could pay dividends when it comes to releasing a full album.
That LP, as yet unnamed, is due later this year. For now, the band’s eagerness to evade lengthier excursions into uncharted musical territory means that repeated listens might do this record fewer favours. Still, it’s hard to argue with the solidity of their M.O. – catchy mid-paced jams and a summery SoCal vibe that has enough sheen to make Transpose an enjoyable listen.