Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bad Sports are back!

Holy smokes! Bad Sports have delivered a completely unexpected (and totally great!) follow-up to 2011's garagey pop/punk barnburner Kings of the Weekend. For its third album, The Denton/Austin power trio has embraced a more aggressive sound and a wider stylistic palate with firm roots in early New York City punk. No doubt, another album just like Kings of the Weekend would have been welcomed by just about everyone. But give Bad Sports credit - they've managed to do something very different while still retaining the essential qualities that made them such a good band to begin with. And in the process, they've made their best album by a mile.

Bras successfully blends echoes of CBGB's heyday with the grit and sizzle of contemporary Texan garage/punk. Bad Sports continue to focus on catchy, high-energy songs - but this time with a thunderous punch redolent of the Dictators, Dead Boys, and Testors. And impressively, they cover a lot of musical territory without ever sounding like they're reaching. By no means have Bad Sports made the typical retro '77 record. Yet in spirit, this is closer to genuine first wave punk than anything I've heard in a long time, with additional nods to Detroit and Australia. I dig the raw, stripped-down sound, and the variety and quality of the songwriting absolutely blows me away. I've never been that great at math, so naturally this is about the eighth album this year that I swear is a lock for my year-end top five. Don't let the joke title fool you - this record is a monster!

Bras comes out of the gates with the driving melodic punk of "Get You", and immediately you might think you're getting another Kings of the Weekend. But things turn in a hurry with the face-melting blast of "Rockin' The Noose", and by track three it's like you're listening to a completely different band. Style-wise, they run the gamut from the scorching, sneering fury of "Washed Up" to the ballsy power pop of "Nothing In This World" to the Lou Reed meets Television swagger of "Back In Time". The band's songwriting really reaches new heights here. "Let Me In" recalls lesser known NYC punk rock n' roll greats like Tuff Darts and The Demons, while the thumping "Race To The Bottom" walks a fine line between proto-punk and hard rock a la early Dictators. Bad Sports adhere to no specific formula, taking on toe-tapping poppy punk (the smash hit "Terrible Place") and creeping heavy rock (epic closer "Rich Kid City") with equally strong results. And while this album suggests emerging similarities between Bad Sports and Orville's other band OBN III's, they remain two completely distinct acts.

A collaboration between arguably the best two labels of the past decade (Dirtnap and Alien Snatch Records), Bras is mind-numbingly good. And while it was (brilliantly) produced by Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke, it would be a huge mistake to dismiss it as just another Marked Men related project. Sometimes it's a backhanded compliment to call a band "improved". But when a band was fucking killer to begin with and somehow takes it to a whole other level, that's truly a cause for celebration. For a while I've heard talk about how Bad Sports totally tear shit up live. And now they've captured that same energy on record! If you love the '77 and garage-punk sounds but are looking for a band that's anything but another sound-alike, Bras has got to be in your record collection.



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