Bad Moves: Untenable (Don Giovanni) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, August 12th, 2020  

Bad Moves

Untenable

Don Giovanni

Jun 26, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Washington, D.C. area power pop band Bad Moves already won fans with the band’s infectious debut record, Tell No One, as well as its appearance on the Cartoon Network show Craig of the Creek and tours with underground heroes such as Jeff Rosenstock and The Hold Steady. The band’s bright, hooky, and emotive power pop has grown some rougher edges in the two years since its debut. Yet, though Untenable captures a palpable restlessness and instability, it also keeps the catchy hooks and spunky attitude coming in equal measure, creating an album that is as fun as it is intelligent. 

Much like Tell No One, Untenable is dynamic and entertaining the whole way through. The songs here are full of punchy guitar riffs and sugar-sweet melodies. The band also continues to trade off vocal duties among all its members. Each member feels like they add their own character to their vocals, creating a very collaborative feel to the music. The collective element here also reflects in the sunny atmosphere on the record. Tracks such as “Camp Henlopen” will slot in well to some indie kids’ impromptu car karaoke. The song captures the simple joy of a day with friends on a beach in Delaware. These consistently catchy melodies and energetic performances maintain a delightful power pop core to the band’s music. 

Surrounding that core, though, the band’s lyrics intelligently examine contemporary social and political anxieties. “Party With the Kids Who Want to Party With You” takes the specter of nuclear war or climate collapse and turns it to an urgent call for ignoring life’s banalities and connecting with people. That sense of restlessness permeates a lot of the songs, adding to the bouncy energy of the record. “Working For Free” takes a more driving, aggressive turn as the band shows off their punk credentials and takes on the exploitation of service workers. As much pure fun as the album is, lines such as “When the worlds run through the hands of unpaid labor excess income trickles up” show that the band is still capable of some sharp lyrical messages. 

There are a few moments where the album does lose some of that momentum. “Fog is a Funny Thing” starts out with synths and string accents, standing out pretty dramatically from the rest of the album. It eventually picks up into another pop punk track, but the beginning portion’s aesthetic sticks out rather unflatteringly. Similarly, the slacker indie of “Settle Into It” does lack some of the forceful attitude of the rest of the album. Even these weaker tracks, however, show the band’s penchant for well-constructed melodies and distinctive vocal performances. 

Untenable addresses a world seemingly in a perpetual state of confusion and upheaval, eventually finding personal solace in the friendships within and around the band. It hits an emotional endpoint similar to a lot of anxious pop punk, such as Jeff Rosenstock or PUP. In the words of the closing track, “We’re still having a good time/Maybe this all ends up fine.../ Or maybe it's the end of time.” Yet, within this lane, Bad Moves manages to give its own addictive and quotable spin on the style. The distinctive vocal stylings, sunny guitar tones, and ear for sharp melodies set the band apart from its peers and show a band only growing in quality. (www.badmoves.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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