The Bads
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The Bads

Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand | INDIE

Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand | INDIE
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At the tail end of their emotionally probing Say Your Goodbyes here Dianne Swann and Brett Adams sing "see how much we've grown", a line that might be autobiographical about this duo which has confidently moved past rock to a place in country-framed singer-songwriter territory, while keeping one ear on a pop hook and arrangment.

So Alive bristles with fine songs by the Swann-Adams team -- although a standout is Adams' time in the spotlight on his Drop in the Ocean -- and on material like the edgy Gracious or, at the other end of their spectrum, the atmospheric Demons (with a chiming guitar which evokes some film-noir setting) this is extremely impressive.

Swann can deliver an intelligent, aching ballad with conviction (the loving Baby Come Home, the empathy of Floodgates) but most attention here will be on the country-touched songs like the title track (which was apparently used in the tele-series Hunger for the Wild, I'm glad that hasn't spoiled its echo-jangle for me), the chug'n'strum of Helensville and the pop-flavoured Say Your Goodbyes. And the throbbing First Night Without You.

In this New Zealand Music Month there are a lot of albums which broadcast on a narrow emotional/songwriting frequency, but the Bads -- with the kind of musical maturity which only comes from years accrued -- have a sense of diversity and dynamics which is very appealing indeed.

See how much they've grown?


Added: 15 May 09

APRIL 30, 2009

Rating: * * * *

Possibly the Bads doth complain too much - on their song Irritainment, they target modern television over a spot of ye olde pub rock guitar chug. But the title track to this has already had prime-time exposure via Hunger for the Wild, one of those shows attempting to make celebrity chefs out of a couple of Wellington restaurateurs not quite up to the job description.

Oh well. That song is about the only misstep on this, the second album under the Bads moniker by partners Dianne Swann and Bret Adams.

The Bads' record from 2005 first caught them grappling with stylistic issues, trying to reconcile their pop and rock pasts with a growing enthusiasm for alt-country. This one is a far more relaxed, cohesive affair which lets the songs breathe with rustic charm and fine tunes. And that's right from the title track which opens this, while, thankfully, evoking something more than whitebait fritters.

Elsewhere, with Adams briefly taking the lead vocal they head boldly into Wilco territory on Drop in the Ocean and deliver deft duets on both the rollicking country rock Gracious and the twangin' tale of woe Helensville, while Swann's solo voice gives this a lovely line in heart-bruised ballads like of Baby Come Home, Valid State of Mine (sic) and the closing Floodgates. Yes here, the Bads deliver the goods.

Russell Baillie

- The New Zealand Herald

If you've never heard of Kiwi group the Bads, you've still heard of the Bads - it wouldn't make any sense for a record this accomplished to come from nowhere. The core of the group is duo Dianne Swann and Brett Adams - and together they've been playing since 1992. Formerly known as the Julie Dolphin (and a few other incarnations in between), The Bads' second album finds them in top shape, with a flawless country-indie-rocking-popping blend that doubtless led their appointment as Lucinda Williams' support act of choice. Swann's voice is magic (no wonder Thom Yorke recorded a duet with her!) though the voices in harmony are better still. Enjoy the Bads while we have them - it seems the whole world wants a piece of them! MC.
(Matthew Crawley)


The Bads
Earth From Space 2005
So Alive 2009

The title track So Alive received good radio and TV play in New Zealand, and achieved top 20 Status on the NZ airplay charts.
It also features in Australian Film My Year Without Sex.

They have just released First Night, which is starting to get radio platy on commercial radio.



Neil Young, Dusty Springfield, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Jimmy Webb, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, Husker Du and Willie Nelson.
Those were the names given by Dianne Swann and Brett Adams as early musical interests. It doesn’t mean that all of those artists inspired the music of The Bads, but it does mean that those legendary names made a crucial impact on the musicians at a crucial time.
Dianne Swann and Brett Adams have worked together since 1992. From The Julie Dolphin, as the pair first called themselves in London, to Boom Boom Mancini and now to The Bads.
Things went pretty well for the duo in London, they received great press, including NME single of the week, tours supporting Radiohead (Dianne sang with Thom Yorke on a song called “How Can You Be Sure” which was on the Japanese version of “The Bends” and a B side for their release “Fake Plastic Trees”).
Says Swann, “It was pretty magical when Brett and I started writing together in London when we wrote the stuff for The Julie Dolphin...we had this kind of telepathy which was exciting”, the pair often write separately, but always with the collective project in mind. Adds Adams, “what we do now is quite different to what we did in The Julie Dolphin, a lot less noisy anyway but it does not feel like any radical change to me”.
The thing that is not different is that the song comes first. So Alive, the new album by The Bads is filled with gorgeous melodies and pop songs that shimmer with a country vibe, with indie intentions, with straight-ahead rock; clean guitar lines mixing with quirky ideas. Pitch-perfect harmonies sitting inside precise rhythms – each song feels like a mini-masterpiece that has been worked at, honed, cradled, loved, learned and forgotten then learned again.
“It probably falls in to the rock/alt-country label”, reckons Adams. Or, as Swann says, “Rockin Poppin Altin Country!”
So Alive certainly feels like that – and it feels very alive too. Where previous album Earth From Space had a majestic sweep to it and a grace that was felt across several listens as songs made themselves known, the tunes that make up So Alive have an urgency, whether it’s the Bic Runga-of-Birds-like ‘Pack Your Demons’ or the country shuffle of the title track.
Both Adams and Swann are not concerned with being identified as “NZ musicians” – but they are Kiwis and the good music of The Bads is made here. Swann says it started out “as just a kind of antidote to the disappointment we experienced in the UK. We recorded Earth From Space at home mostly...and were not even really serious about putting it out...then once we put it out on a small label and thought ‘bugger why didn't we make more of this?’ Earth From Space found fans, among them Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan who introduced the band to an Australian audience on TV and raved. Music from the same album was used in American TV Series Kyle XY and The Unit, and also lead to the band composing for the NZ TV series Hunger For The Wild. (The title track from the new album falls out of that work.)
Right now the band is right into playing live again and the new songs do have a more live feel to them. “I guess also we have just given into the fact that we love Alt country or country rock or what ever the hell you might like to call it...and we are not holding back!” says Dianne.
The not-holding-back will see twists of the duo’s shared love of Wilco (‘Gracious’) mix with the melodic/harmonic sweet simplicity of the first Goldenhorse record (‘Say Your Goodbyes’).
The feeling that The Bads has moved from a good project to a great band is clear on every track of So Alive, and there’s certainly no shame in it being a Kiwi album – as ‘Helensville’ very much celebrates, taking Split Enz-y mandolin and the feel of George And Queen to create a bit of country-bumpkin busking.
There is a sense of childlike wonder, of discovery, in the songs created by The Bads. And there’s also a feeling of actively adding to the canon of song, of taking a melodic idea and placing it down not only for people to listen to but for it to be part of a larger something – part of this thing called music that we all love.
There’s also a modesty to The Bads who, as The Julie Dolphin, opened for Green Day and collaborated with Radiohead. Dianne has some strong memories of unique experiences (“seeing Frank Black in the audience when we played at the 100 Club in London” and “collaborating with Tom Yorke [Radiohead] on The Bends Sessions and playing keyboards on Street Spirit at the Astoria would have to be up there”). Brett has tales of playing with Tim Finn and The Mockers. But what is most important – to both – is playing strong songs. That comes, as Dianne sums up, “by being inspired by writing, by wanting to write the best songs you can”.
2009 has been a fun year for the duo they released their album “So Alive” and received great reviews and also have impressed with their live show – they s