There’s a subgenre of rock that has floated just beneath the surface of chart- toppers of the last decade, occasionally surfacing with a summer hit that comes and goes. I’m talking about your Bastilles, your Imagine Dragons, your Walk the Moons, your NewPolitics—indie/ pop rock outfits linked not so much by their focus on catchy hooks, but by their infectious optimism. If bands like Foo Fighters have settled into ‘Dad Rock’,then a band like Bad Suns has earned the moniker of ‘Mom Rock’, unashamedly appealing to nostalgic mothers and young teens hopeful for the future. A four-piece started in California in 2012, Bad Suns return with their third studio album, Mystic Truth (out March 22 via Epitaph Records). The titular mystic truth comes from an early image in opener “Away We Go”, where vocalist Christo Bowman looks into his lovers eyes and begs her to run away with him, hoping for a moment of truth to be found in those split-second decisions.
Much of Mystic Truth is built on this day-dreaming momentum. 10 tracks in just over thirty minutes, Bad Suns wastes no time with their deceptively poppy, carefully constructed tracks vying for that summer hit status. And damn if they don’t do a good job at it—each track is relentlessly earnest, and does well at capturing the emotional highs that come from young love and burgeoning passions. “Love By Mistake” is a clear image of a summer day in the park, complete with sunny guitars, bird sound effects, and the quick realization you’re falling in love with the girl beside you. “Howling At The Sun” is sung from below a bedroom window, rejoicing, “We can fly so much faster than we run.” The tempo and energy never lets up, but comes in momentous waves to keep things constantly listenable. Even when things get ‘dark’, such as in closer “Starjumper”—a mere setback in the narrator’s life suddenly leaves him feeling hopeless, so rather than fall into the moody piano riff, he “ascends into moonbeams” and floats away from his problems. As the aptly named “Darkness Arrives (And Departs)” portrays, Bad Suns ‘fights away fears and wipes away tears.’ No, they are not afraid of using lyrical clichés.
This all sounds too cheesy to bear, but within a few tracks, I was quickly won over by the sheer enthusiasm and optimism. The structures of songs are predictable enough to add to the catchiness (you know that bridge is coming), and the dense production helps the instrumentation move through a surprising variety of styles and movements within a single song, and without ever moving too far from the familiar pop aspects. Mystic Truths, despite constantly elevating the everyday into celestial heights and back down again, isn’t quite so mystic. It’s direct and immediately effective, and able to shrug off the many groans it’s likely to receive aside from its target.
Bad Suns Mystic Truth is dangerously earnest pop-rock that is manufactured to make you feel the emotional peaks that can only come from youthful dreaming. It’s Disney-esque. However cheesy they are, each of the 10 incisively catchy tracks seem to be gunning for summer hit status. The standout tracks for me were “One Magic Moment”, “A Miracle, A Mile Away”, and “Love By Mistake”.
review by Matthew Wardell