Review : Bad Veins - The Mess We've Made
PopmattersThe Cincinnati-based keyboard-and-guitars indie rock duo Bad Veins have a shtick or two up the sleeves of the vintage Army fatigues that they don while touring. (Band leader Benjamin Davis’s choice of full metal jacket comes directly from his dad, who served in Vietnam.) For one, this poppy indie rock group relies on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, named Irene (shades of Echo, the personified drum machine from Echo and the Bunnymen perhaps), to bolster their sound – not unlike what ‘80s indie rock act Timbuk 3 used to use on stage. Davis also employs megaphones and rotary telephones to sing into to bolster his voice, and the second album from Bad Veins (not to be confused with the similar-sounding veteran D.C. hardcore band Bad Brains), The Mess We’ve Made, throws in all sorts of off kilter instrumentation to buoy the generally shiny happy sounding tunes: everything from horns to Mellotrons to banjos to barely-there background female vocals to, well, the kitchen sink pretty much. It’s a fascinating klatch of sounds to listen to, though sometimes the sheer wall of instrumentation gets in the way of the songs the odd time. Still, that doesn’t stop Davis and partner Sebastien Schultz from trying. To be different and above the crowd, at least.
To this point, Bad Veins have a certain critical cachet in some quarters. Their 2009 debut album was named No. 7 on ABC Amplified’s Best Albums of 2009 list, USA Today included the album’s final track “Go Home” in their Top 20 Songs of 2009, and the single “Gold and Warm” was featured in the recent teens-with-superpowers flick Chronicle. So the group finds itself with the ultimate sophomore quandary: how to continue the steady roll of critical acclaim and somewhat commercial notice while upping the ante a bit. To that end, The Mess We’ve Made sounds a lot like what you’d get if Tears for Fears merged with the Killers: Even Davis’s vocals resemble a slightly throatier Roland Orzabal’s, if you can picture that. There’s a certain New Wave feel to the album, and a great deal of it is catchy and appealing – so long as you don’t listen to it too closely. (More on that later.) The Mess We’ve Made even opens up with “Don’t Run”, a subwoofer-rattling bass heavy song with scratchy-sounding orchestrated violin stabs straight from the ‘80s, and it is a genuinely thrilling way to start the album – the song burrows under your skin upon repeated listens, and is the sort of thing you’d want to warm up to before heading out to the dance club. “Nursery Rhyme” continues in the same vein (sorry, bad pun): a woozy synthesized track with swooning strings that really makes you sit up and take notice musically. The strings get deeper, into cello territory, on follow-up cut “If Then”, a brooding and affecting piece of dance pop that has a Moby Dick reference thrown into it in good measure....full text
ExystenceCincinnati chamber-rock duo Bad Veins follow up their much-buzzed-about self-titled 2009 debut with an album that sonically raises the bar. As frontman Ben Davis has noted in recent interviews, the debut’s songs followed pretty much the same format: strings, break it down, go orchestral, rock it out. (Live, Davis and drummer Sebastien Schultz play along with a reel-to-reel filled with instrumental tracks.) Now, auxiliary instruments enjoy their cameo then slink back into a mix that allows more room for the melodies and featured instruments to breathe. The cast of instrumental characters is large, but they’re crisply choreographed, like a Jason Statham fight scene. Take “Chasing,” one of the album’s best cuts. It opens to a loud…
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… bassline accented with piano, drums and flute, as Davis’ laconic baritone sways like a half-lidded Julian Casablancas. Light harmonies join in with strings and piano, leading into a sweeping chorus, another verse and then a break keyed to moody keyboard swells and distant, echoing vocals. It’s a wonderfully crafted piece. Indeed, there’s nothing on the album that isn’t exquisite enough to line a shelf of fine crystal miniatures. Other highlights include the dark, cello-driven obsession of “If Then,” the relatively punchy, new wave-tinged “Nursery Rhyme” and “Not Like You,” arguably the most idiosyncratic track; the latter explores a slinky, horn-abetted, cabaret-flavored strut....full text
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