Driven by a manic, chaotic enthusiasm, Orange County’s The Lovely Bad Things play bash-it-out garage rock that doesn’t skimp on hooks or harmony.
The Late Great Whatever, the band’s full-length debut, finds Brayden and Camron Ward, Tim Hatch and Lauren Curtius hop-scotching from one propulsive, infectious song to the next, drawing inspiration from surf and punk, as well as a big dose of the Pixies.
“Hear or Anywhere” starts the album off with thumping toms, fuzzy guitar hooks and with Curtius on lead vocals, the band sounds like an amped-up neo-girl group, pausing to catch its breath before rushing into the final unbridled chorus.
The band’s readily professed love for the Pixies shows up first—and most clearly—on “Fried Eyes,” which presents an uncanny yet fresh take on those touchstone elements: sharp guitar riffs that slice across the bouncing bassline, a quietly echoing blend of male/female vocals, surreal lyrics (“Fried eyes next to a fried heart. Would you care for a slice?”) and then that punch when the tension breaks into a storm. “Pixies-esque” is a difficult tag for any band to burden itself with, but The Lovely Bad Things pull off an homage that’s exciting enough to return to again and again.
On “Kessel Run” (the Star Wars shorthand for frantic, reckless speed is no accident), the band cranks the punk to a breakneck pace, shouting breathlessly about talking to strangers. “Darth Lauren” completes the long-ago-far-away two-fer, welding some fever-dream psychedelic rock onto the band’s garage punk.
The band is back in PixiesLand on “Rope Swing,” with Curtius again front and center, wielding a hazy, bittersweet melody that takes a breakup song past the hurt, past the fallout, to look at the long-term emotional scars. “Oh, I know that I’ve got some shit I need to work on / But boy do I feel bad for the shrink who takes your case on,” she sings, from the point of view of someone seeing past the heartbreak to the psychological abuse that caused it.
On “Randall the Savage,” The Lovely Bad Things turn toward the yelpy oddball end of their spectrum. “It’s getting weirder, but it feels the same,” the band shouts again and again, over a jittery bassline and unhinged guitars. “Honeycomb Cocoon” and “Styx and Branches” balance out the album’s strong closing stretch, equal parts sugar and speed.
The band jokes that every one of them has ADD, and from the highly adrenalized pace it’s almost believable. The fact they all sing and they all swap instruments lends even more of a helter-skelter spirit to the songs, but The Lovely Bad Things are too dialed in, too in command of their raw and boundless energy to drop some scattershot mess of an album. The Lovely Bad Things channel their inspirations with more than enough musical and songwriting skill to stand apart. The Late Great Whatever is a thrill ride built from top-shelf materials.