Review Summary: Despite some infectious hooks and impressive vocal performances, there's a lot to be desired from a band that had the potential to make much better music than their above-average debut LP.
With the release of their debut EP Transpose
earlier in the year, Bad Suns proved themselves to be a notch above most other generic indie pop bands. After all, they were able to write catchy choruses, play their instruments well, plus they didn’t have an annoying lead singer, so things were looking pretty bright for them. Hot off the success of lead single “Cardiac Arrest”, which managed to peak at #15 on Billboard’s Alternative chart, Bad Suns proved they were able to gain commercial success without sacrificing their artistic talent, as album cuts “Transpose” and “Salt” showed. Amongst the Grouploves and The 1975s in the genre, they stood out, making a lasting first impression that most bands normally don’t.
It’s a damn shame that they couldn’t keep it up.
Make no mistake – Language & Perspective
is by no means a bad
album at all. All of the good things about the Transpose
EP are still present, right down to the inclusion of the band’s two best songs. Yet for all the anthemic hooks and flashy choruses Bad Suns have to offer, there’s only roughly an EPs worth of quality material on here, and everything else just weighs the record down. At four tracks, Transpose
seemed rather short, but then again, it was supposed to be – after all, it was nothing more than an introduction to their music. However, at eleven tracks, Language & Perspective
drags on for far too long, which shouldn’t be, considering it clocks in at roughly thirty-seven minutes. That’s the main issue that Bad Suns’ debut album suffers from – too many songs fail to grab the attention of listeners, rendering them boring and forgettable. Among other things, this is mainly caused by a lack of variation (causing some tracks to blend together and sound the same) and the absence of memorable hooks. There’s a reason “Cardiac Arrest” was chosen as the record’s lead single – its soaring chorus and melodic “ooh ooh ooh”s were guaranteed to make a lasting mark on people who would flip through radio stations and hear this song being played, and it’s commercial success clearly proves its effectiveness. Nevertheless, for every “Cardiac Arrest”, there’s a “Take My Love and Run”, a track that goes absolutely nowhere.
Part of what makes Language & Perspective
seem so forgettable is the fact that it is extremely bottom-heavy. Aside from “Cardiac Arrest” and second single contender “We Move Like the Ocean”, there’s ultimately nothing memorable about the repetitive “Matthew James”, while lead singer Christo Bowman’s soaring vocals are wasted with mind-numbingly dull instrumentation on “Pretend”. Giving credit where it’s due, “Dancing on Quicksand” steals the show as the album’s best new track. Opening with some warbling synths and quiet yet noticeable guitar, the song highlights Bowman’s falsetto as he cries, “I ran out of luck when I fucked up, and nothing’s gonna make this right again / When it’s too much, you’re fucked, time was supposed to make this right again”. There’s even a short guitar solo, which frankly comes as a bit of a surprise given how scarce they are throughout the album. An upbeat, summery atmosphere is created through the repeating drumfills and ongoing “ooh ooh ooh”s, making it a breezy track despite its downbeat lyrical matter.
Despite some overarching flaws, Language & Perspective
still manages to take advantage of Bad Suns’ strengths that they utilized well on the Transpose
EP. They’ve always been able to create a moody atmosphere, echoing the emotions of the tracks’ meaning. “Sleep Paralysis” exudes a rather airy feel built upon Bowman’s jawdropping falsetto, and constantly builds, adding in drums and increasing in volume until it reaches its gorgeous climax when all the instruments come together. Meanwhile, tracks like “Learn to Trust” show off the band’s rhythm section, with a groovy bassline and an incredibly infectious hook. It seems as if “Dancing for Quicksand” is Language & Perspective
’s turning point – most of the weakest tracks occur before it, and the album’s highlights mostly happen following it, further proving its status as “bottom-heavy”.
All in all, Bad Suns don’t entirely disappoint on their first full-length, but they do leave a lot to be desired following a rather great extended play. Stretching their limit to eleven tracks, there’s about an EPs length of quality material on this record (that’s loads more than fellow indie pop acts The Neighbourhood and Grouplove will ever release in their careers, but I digress). Thankfully, those six tracks are Bad Suns at their best, combining slick production with memorable hooks, well-incorporated instrumentation and ethereal atmosphere. Although they may not be able to get the formula write all the time, Language & Perspective
is an indicator of just how much talent Bad Suns have, even if they do slightly disappoint at first.