Four-man talent frenzy Bad/Love are back only days out from their latest single release “Nowhere Else Like Home”. The Melbourne emo supergroup are debuting the rest of their hard efforts in the form of SIOIS. The EP is recorded by Callan Orr at Avalanche Studios; a place that is home to fellow acts such as Dream On Dreamer, Young Lions, and House vs Hurricane. Bad/Love have collated years of experience into one little room and walked out with a clean, tight debut that showcases their efforts perfectly.
Clocking in roughly around the twenty-four-minute mark, SIOIS leaves nothing on the table. When it comes to a debut, less is always more. Give me something explosive, unapologetic, and gone before I get comfortable. I want to be left craving more and Bad/Love have done exactly that. I found myself running on a treadmill with SIOIS always dangling another catchy hook in front of me.
The opening track “Slowly” is a great example of this phenomenon. With an intro that sounds like it’s about to steamroll over us, you either run or get left behind. Funnily enough, I have yet to find anything ‘slow’ about “Slowly”. The song bellows in the beginning with an orchestra of larger than life synthy-strings.
While Bad/Love is often discussed as capturing nostalgia and working with sounds of the past, I couldn’t help but find myself in a futuristic cyberpunk-style world. I’m in awe of the myriad of vocal performances within the first few minutes of this EP. I actually had to fact check that it was only Landon Kirk as a vocalist, as I was taken back by how versatile his voice was. What well and truly sold me on future listens however, was the nasty breakdown to close out “Slowly”. Couple that with one of Kirk’s best performances and you’ve got my attention.
While it has been out for a month or so, I hadn’t actually yet found myself in the presence of the band’s premiere single “The World in Colour”. I’d given the track a listen or two prior to talking on their later release, but SIOIS is where I truly got to sit down with this one. Northlane’s Marcus Bridge features on the track, hitting his trademark, spectacularly clean high-pitches that put my car karaoke to shame.
I again get vibes to this that differ quite a bit from what others tend to see. “The World in Colour” sounds like it should be the leading track in a Michael Bay Transformers film, if one was made that was actually good. The world within their music sounds rich with technological advancements, whilst remaining bleak and industrial. Everything is clean to the point of being clinical, with Bad/Love being the only shade of colour foreign to this place.
Finding myself coming back to “The World in Colour” quite a bit, I found it to be one of the band’s strongest sounds. I moved on to the subsequent tracks but kept continuously catching myself humming the hook, “What if I wanted to go, bury this just for the show?/What if I wanted to know, what it takes to save this?”. While it is very catchy, I can agree that it is equally as thought-provoking. It is a song designed to be empathic in its quest, putting listeners in a set of shoes opposite of them. The fan now plays the part of the performer. What is it like to feel alone when you’re standing in front of a sea of people? With my heart set more on the dynamic vocal performances (again), I can’t go past how impressive they are.
As is the case with each track, I’m finding the ambient sounds to be some of the richest ones. Every song either fades in, fades out or both with an imaginative snippet of the world Bad/Love have created. The EP’s title track “SIOIS” is a little different as it is an entire soundscape interlude. I have had to turn off “SIOIS” each time I try to write. Normally I like to write alongside the music, but this was different. Each minute and twelve seconds that the musical intermission was present, I found myself lost in thought.
To some more casual listeners, the track may be a wasted effort, but I feel it is very important as a palate cleanser. For me, this is where I find SIOIS shifts from a perfect, AI-enhanced machine to a grittier, more human experience. Without this Men in Black memory eraser, then I think the shift may be jarring and noticeable. “SIOIS” is very deliberately produced and placed within the EP. While it is a very simple interlude, it is effective in placing the listener in a fresh frame of mind.
“Shadow of the Day” starts the momentum again with some mean and filthy sounds from guitarist Lachlan Monty which are coupled with some refreshing splashes by drummer Luke Weber. Throw those ingredients together and add some more of those orchestral jams, then you have this killer fade in. I am pleasantly surprised to hear the strings reprise throughout the track for a renaissance take on metal. One of the most interesting elements in SIOIS as a whole is the contrast between such eloquent pieces of music to the filthy and gritty riffs below. “Shadow of the Day” has some of the most engaging instrumental showcases, but is one of the tracks I find myself coming back to less.
I won’t go too far into “Nowhere Else Like Home” as you can find my full coverage of the emo masterpiece, where it is given the time it deserves. I am enjoying coming back to the track with a now familiar set of eyes however. The song’s lead in is one of the strongest parts of the piece. Obviously labelling a few seconds of music as one of the strongest things may sound insulting, but it is what Bad/Love accomplish within that brief moment that I am a fan of. Without fail on every single song, I have found myself snagged within the initial few seconds. It’s the foot in the door that Bad/Love need to be able to show listeners everything else up their sleeves. As was the case with Marcus Bridge, I have to mention the beautiful efforts from ex-Hellions guitarist Matthew Gravolin. “Nowhere Else Like Home” is such a complete piece; just like majority of these songs, it feels as though it has been in the works for years.
Sadly SIOIS is coming to an end, but the silver lining on that little grey cloud is that I feel the best has been saved for last. With the EP’s first half screaming futuristic dystopia, the second half is definitely much closer to a mid-2000s yearbook. This is where I feel nostalgia; my rose-tinted glasses are on and that era’s highlights come back to mind. “Moving Mountains” is exactly that to me, a love letter to a bygone era. That track coupled with “Nowhere Else Like Home” really helps the softer end of SIOIS really step up to the plate, and shows how flexible Bad/Love really are.
Harking back to my comments on “SIOIS”, I find with Bad/Love that the first half of this EP capture the ‘bad’; a utopia corrupted by stray opinions and mindsets. Whereas, I find the tracks after the interlude to really encompass the ‘love’; a grounded natural world blemished with fault and human error. I think the strongest element to SIOIS as a whole is the constant contrasts; lyrically, sonically, thematically. I don’t know how many times I can use the word perfect, but it fits.
The mixing throughout has been stellar, with close attention to meticulous detail. Not the smallest sound passes me that I don’t believe was intentional. The impact from the mixing and mastering is seriously felt on tracks like “Moving Mountains” and “The World in Colour”. The guitar tones are warm and full, the drums are tight and have a killer pop, hell, even the bass is present and mesmerising. The EP’s film negative-like artwork seems to fit beautifully with this and the penultimate track, provoking a weird case of synaesthesia. There’s not a lot of feedback or criticism I can offer towards SIOIS, I just hope Bad/Love keep it up.
SIOIS perfectly captures where Bad/Love are all at musically as a collective. It is definitely a project by people who love music, and especially love playing it. I see love letters in here to previous decades, along with sky-high dreams of a future in another world. I can hear topics from their souls dealt with under the safety of a mask, but one that is worn with pride. Constructed with care, grace, and passion, this debut effort from Bad/Love is one I’m glad I found and something I can only see benefiting the Australian music scene.
Lyrics were occasionally a little too vague, distancing me from the song.
Short and sweet. Incredible versatility. Grand performances.