Review: Bad Sounds = Good Times at Thekla

8th November 2017


In addition to selling out tonight’s show, the pre-gig sighting of several of the band’s T-shirts among the crowd– including those consecutively adorned by five teenage friends in the front row – is further testament to Bad Sounds’ thriving Bristolian fan-base. On this evening’s evidence, their following is easily deserved; blending myriad influences ranging from 70s dance music, synth-pop, indie disco and the lighter side of hip-hop, the good time five piece from Neighbouring Bath offer a joyous musical soup perfect for fun live performances.

There’s a theatrically jokey opening as green and orange boiler suited doppelgangers take to the stage before making way for co-frontmen – brothers Ewan and Callum Merrett – and a glitter gun explosion which launches the band into the hip-hop flavoured pop of ‘Hot Head Chippenham.’ It’s an opening track that is met with large applause and, in what turns out to be the evening’s most enduring signifier of a young band having a great time on stage, an even larger grin from Ewan Merrett.

Ewan declares “we’re super blown away” in appreciation of the rapturous reception before informing the audience that they are the first to ever hear new track ‘Are You High?’ A debut appearance that sits comfortably within the set, the band’s signature penchant for an exuberant chorus is given a slightly new twist with its melodies wrapped around crunchy guitar lines and powerful bass.

As well as an infectiously joyful sonic experience, Bad Sounds provide an entertaining visual realisation of a band engaged in fun times. Ewan – adorned in beanie hat and baggy clothing – paces around the stage like someone in a hip-hop group, particularly with the mic technique and hand gestures employed during ‘Zacharia’. Callum, meanwhile, is a spectacle of bright white boiler suit and bleached curtains atop his head as he animatedly bounces back and forth to his sampling board. There’s even an enduring karate theme; the band’s drummer, bassist and guitarist play the last three songs in karate uniforms and the two brothers execute Daniel Larusso style crane kicks in step with the opening salvo of disco-tinged old favourite ‘Banger.’

The enjoyment emanating from the stage is reflected in both positive and incongruous audience reactions. The crowd are a consistent mass of euphoric jumping and swaying, there’s a bizarre cry of “Oh my God!” in the relative quiet before ‘Living Alone’ and a gentleman who has been bellowing “Play ‘Banger’” all evening, comically bellows for it again right after it has been played. There’s a bout of fist pumping as the crowd members near the stage look to clash knuckles with Ewan and both brothers briefly end up in the audience before being dragged out again by security staff.

An extremely fun show reaches a satisfying climax with Bad Sounds saving their three best tunes for last. The release of dozens of balloons in step with the launch into the blistering ‘Avalanche’ incites the audience into pandemonium; the chaos culminates with Ewan – whose playing has been disrupted by his intermittent batting away of balloons – still managing to deliver the song’s infectious pitter-patter keyboard riff by playing it on his knees at a 45 degree angle after the instrument falls from its stand. The breezy ‘I Feel’ – though perhaps in debt to Klaxons’ ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ – features some of band’s best melodies and ‘Wages’ – championed by Annie Mac as “Hottest record in the world” – sees four extra musicians join on stage to deliver the song’s euphoric brass accompaniment.

Combining a range of upbeat and energetic musical styles and clearly mindful of putting on enjoyable performances for their audience, one would be hard pressed to name an act more conducive to feelgood live shows. Bad Sounds may as well be a synonym for good times.

Scott Hammond