Badenders – Driving
Piano-driven power-pop that draws heavily from many influences for inspiration.
It’s part of a reviewer’s job to compare new bands to established bands. Sometimes this job is easy – a band fits perfectly into an established sound, they rip off a band, or they establish a piece of the sound that is clearly influenced by someone else. Sometimes the job is next to impossible, either by bands having no discernable influences or by bands having way too many.
The Badenders have way too many influences. Their basic sound is a piano-and-synth-heavy power-pop, but there’s flashes of Radiohead, U2, Mae, Oasis, Coldplay, Something Corporate, Brand New, Counting Crows and more. There’s so many influences that I feel they can’t all exist – I must be impressing my own opinion and musical choices on their sound. But darn it all if I don’t hear Radiohead in the chord changes, guitar wankery and choral wailings of the epic-length “Cry for Help” – even the tone of voice changes to wail incoherently at the appropriate section. If it weren’t supported by a perky piano line, I would say it was the little brother of “Paranoid Android.”
The emotive piano and acoustic guitar of “Possum” evoke the later half of Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head – the crisp jangle against the smooth piano evokes “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and “Warning Sign.” “Drywater” is a Blind Melon, Counting Crows-esque tune that yearns to be included in early 90s radio.
This is not to knock the talent of the Badenders. The members of the Badenders are all very adept at their instruments, and their chemistry is undeniable. Their songwriting is very capable, as it takes effort to effectively and enjoyably emulate some of the greatest bands of the past twenty years. It’s just that when it comes down to describing the Badenders, it’s very hard to do so on the music’s own merits. Other than sounding like an amalgam of many of the best songwriters of the past two decades, there’s not much that separates the Badenders from the rest of the piano-driven pop-rock pack except closer “The Lights.”
“The Lights” is a dark and foreboding experiment in minimalism – a string quartet, vocals, a single drum tom and piano are all that enter at the onset of the tune. The song unfolds with more vocals but not much more in the way of instrumentation. The mood created is ominous, ambitious and commendable. In stripping away all of the things that drew comparisons, Badenders discover their songwriting style on the final track of this album. It’s a little late to establish yourself on an album, but “The Lights” is easily the most memorable track on the album due to the fact that the Badenders did find their identity within its confines.
Driving is a very enjoyable piano-driven power-pop album. The band spends much of the album playing musical chameleon, dragging the album’s creativity down, but it doesn’t hurt the listenability of the album. The band might not have convinced me of their talent for the long haul if not for “The Lights,” though. If they can harness the vision they caught in their closer to the instrumental talent that they display throughout the album, the Badenders will have an ox team that will lead them into some good territory.