For Fans Of
For any band, releasing your debut album unto the world is a big deal. See, it’s all about the conflict of expectation and momentum: you don’t want to rush the endeavour, and come off half-baked, lukewarm and under-prepared. However, you also don’t want to take too long and have people forget why they even cared for your band in the first place. If you get it right, then glory is on the cards, and potentially a career progression as fully-fledged recording artists. But if you fuck it up, you’ll likely be retired to the dustbin of musical obscurity, in an industry climate that approaches light-speed in terms of artist turnover, so much so that your only hope at best, is to wind up on some kid’s ’10 Bands You Probably Missed’ compilation video.
For Sydney party boys Bare Bones, the time to ‘shit or get off the pot’ was now, in 2017, and thankfully, they’ve delivered on this expectation and momentum in spades. After their inception in 2012, and the release of two well-received EP’s – 2013’s ‘Villains’ and 2014’s ‘Cut Throat Living’ – Bare Bones have finally gifted us with the fruits of their labours over the last few years: their debut full-length record ‘Bad Habits’ – a raucous and purposeful, twelve-track adventure, packed to the brim with hard-rocking riffs, catchy back-beats and gravel-throated screams.
If there was ever a succinct mission statement for Bare Bones, acting as a distillation of the band’s essence as a ‘let-the-good-times-roll’ five-piece outfit, then that statement would be the opening track from ‘Bad Habits’. In as little as fifteen seconds, ‘Thick as Thieves’ bursts through the speakers with crunchy, southern licks, punchy snare hits and cowbell-accents, alongside a well-timed bass slide – all before the track opens up full-throttle into duelling guitars and frontman Tom Kennedy’s acidic snarl. The energy and aggression of the track never lets up, and Bare Bones doggedly maintain that pace for the entire record.
Despite Bare Bones coming from the punk, hardcore and metal underground of inner Sydney, there’s a distinctly American feel to the overall vibe of ‘Bad Habits’, with a particular homage to the Southern hardcore sub-genre popularised throughout the U.S. during the mid-2000’s. In fact, by taking a trip in our nostalgic time machine, to look at banger records from that era, we end up finding a lot of the signposted influences and sonic references that makes up the core Bare Bones sound: there’s the punk-rock attitude of The Bronx‘s second self-titled record (2006); Every Time I Die‘s penchant for devil-may-care swagger on ‘The Big Dirty‘ (2007); the swamp-infested melodies of Maylene & The Sons of Disaster‘s breakthrough second self-titled record (2007); He Is Legend’s tapestry of crushing riffs and soft, angelic croons throughout ‘Suck Out The Poison’ (2007); and the wrecking ball-sized demolition Cancer Bats wield on ‘Hail Destroyer’ (2007). As well as a few subtle nods to the all-time greats, like Pantera, Metallica and Slayer.
So, for much of ‘Bad Habits,’ Bare Bones wildly alternate between two gnashing beast modes: one consisting of melodic, power-chord propelled chorus bangers; and another that relies on sheer, unadulterated fury with snotty bursts of hard-rock fuelled mayhem. Tracks like ‘Ravensburg’ and ‘Skeleton Key’ make for easy sing-a-longs, with cautious verses and creeping riffs courtesy of guitarists James Dean and Chris Breedon, while Kennedy brings it home with impressively harmonised choruses, and withering refrains like “No glory for a bitter man,” and “I’m not in control/Too many skeletons.” Standout track ‘Midnight Climax’ skulks through the album with a swampy, moonshine-soaked intro, and previously released singles like ‘Dead Man Walking’ and ‘White Knuckles Black Tar’ also make a welcome appearance, with the former sporting a barn-stomping beat from drummer/engineer/producer Chris Blancato, and the latter track saving the best chorus for the album’s mid-way point.
Heavier cuts on the album like ‘Deathbed Visions’ benefit from super-charged, driving riffs and a multi-angled vocal attack, while ‘Strange Brew’ brings the sonic beat-down in the mid-section, with whiskey-soaked, Phil Anselmo-esque vocal patterns and wailing leads screaming at the void in the background. ‘The Forgotten Fear and Fury’ makes an up-tempo entrance that could easily sit on an early record from The Bronx, and ‘Diamond Cutter’ unfurls thick, nasty chugs in the verse, over the top of rumbling bottom-end from bassist James Clarke, as Kennedy spits venom and shows his mean streak with lines like: “Turning salt water in to wine/I hope the guilt fucking eats you alive.” At the close, ‘Copper in the Cast’ rounds out ‘Bad Habits’ with one of the band’s longest tracks, sporting a melancholic refrain and dark, introspective lyricism.
For all of its glory, the criticisms levelled at ‘Bad Habits’ would be that after the first few tracks, the band seems to stick ‘in gear’ without too much deviation, and this lack of dynamic range does make the record come off as one-dimensional after multiple listens. The album could have used some longer instrumental passages or variations in structure to help break up the monotony, and it would be interesting to see what the band could do with longer compositions, in the search for a true, bonafide rock’n’roll ‘epic’.
However, now that it’s finally here, fans of Bare Bones can rest easy, as ‘Bad Habits’ is a true representation of the band’s sound, aesthetic and lyrical convictions; a cracking debut album from a hard-drinking, ‘party-til-dawn,’ rock-n-roll act. With these twelve tracks under their collective studded belts and denim jackets, the Sydney five-piece has the foundations for a solid set, which should hopefully allow them to get their bearings musically and launch off confidently into the unknown.
- Thick as Thieves
- Deathbed Visions
- Midnight Climax
- Skeleton Key
- Strange Brew
- White Knuckles Black Tar
- The Forgotten Fear and Fury
- Diamond Cutter
- Heavy Burner
- Dead Man Walking
- Copper in the Cast
‘Bad Habits’ is available from May 19th through Resist Records, and you can pre-order the album here. In the meantime, here’s a video of Tom and James from Bare Bones, raiding the iconic Resist Records store for their favourite LP’s of all time, courtesy of the folks over at The Neversphere.