Live & Learn
14th July 2017 – Basick Records
01. Lovers & Liars
03. Square One
Let’s talk about riffs. Or, rather, rrrriffs. It’s an important distinction, because every repeating guitar (or bass) part could be classed as a riff, but only a few count as rrrriffs. A rrrriff, you see, is a marriage of groove and economy that almost involuntarily induces the listener to scrunch up their faces into happy grimaces and assume the internationally recognised air guitar posture. You know the one. Rrrrriffs are joyous things, and Bad Sign have a particular knack for them.
Gradually honing their sound since 2012 over two EPs, a clutch of singles and a metric fucktonne of gigs, Croydon’s Bad Sign take a refreshingly analogue approach in an increasingly digital world. With a classic power trio configuration and unfussy songwriting, Bad Sign are about as no-nonsense as bands get. Continuing a rich tradition of British alt-rock, there are echoes of a number of bands, like Earthtone9 and Reuben. Indeed, just looking at the long list of bands they’ve shared stages with over the last couple of years – including TesseracT, Black Peaks, Feed The Rhino and Hacktivist – underlines the broad spectrum of Bad Sign’s appeal.
So Bad Sign don’t really break much new ground, with the closest they come to ‘experimental’ being a discordant guitar line or two. What’s more, the absence of a truly grand finale to Live & Learn means that you can get three or four tunes into a looped listen before you realise that it’s started again. However, the twelve songs on offer here are so immediately accessible, well-conceived and deeply satisfying that it’s hard to complain.
Alongside the swagger and bombast sit very tangible senses of sincerity and vulnerability, especially in Joe Appleford’s impassioned vocals. Often plainly singing from the heart, the marriage of the muscular with the fragile in a style reminicent of Earthtone9′s Karl Middleton, paying close attention to the lyrics makes for a surprisingly emotive listen. On “Square One” we hear Joe plead for someone to “give me something I’ve been missing” and on “Intermission” to “give me a reason to feel like you”.
But let’s not beat around the bush any longer; the moments on Live & Learn that will have you punching the air – or your mates – with delight are those when the band roll out their rrrriffs. Often simplified versions of another riff from the song, the dynamic shifts Bad Sign craft into their songs feel every bit as heavy and twice as exciting as your average deathcore breakdown. The band’s mastery of this particular art means that it doesn’t really matter that it’s a trick they repeat on almost every track of Live & Learn. Particular stand out tracks include “Covenant” and “Certitude” that are sure to take another step up again in the power stakes when taken to the stage.
Anthemic and immersive, Live & Learn doesn’t push any boundaries, but the passion and quality that practically drips from the speakers grabs familiar ground as their own. It might not be as showy a skill as some shreddy guitar wunderkind, but songwriting of this calibre is an equally uncommon talent – and there’s even a chance your Mum might like it. Catch them appearing on a stage near you, the chances are high you won’t have to wait that long, and feel the full, thrilling force of those rrrriffs. You won’t be disappointed.