Imagine a room where every band desperate for fame is shouting, screaming and shoving people out of the way to get noticed. Bad Bad Hats are over there in the corner, awkwardly waving but not beckoning us to come over. This is the impression you get from their debut album Psychic Reader.
The trio from Minneapolis, Minnesota don’t inspire much confidence from their questionable band name and this is reflected in their music writing. Every band has a signature writing style and sound, this is true but even the best venture outside their comfort zone to create something new and exciting. Bad Bad Hats seem to lack this incentive and stay within their warm blanket of simplistic twangs and repetitive lyrics. Whether it is a lack of confidence or capability on their part is uncertain, but it wouldn’t hurt to push the boat out.
This fact is frustrating as you listen to this album because it is clear that these guys have talent: Kerry Alexander’s soft tones for example, which sound so strikingly similar to 80’s star Suzanne Vega, it is shockingly uncanny. Chris Hoge and Noah Boswell provide well stylised music to complement her soft tones, but remains a bit one dimensional. They have the tools at their disposal, it just seems like they are not utilising them to their full potential.
Shame is a prime example of this. It is a smartly arranged Indie classic, foot tapping and head bopping included which almost makes you forget about the mediocrity of the first song. But unfortunately, it has one of those car crash, needle scraping across the record endings which hits you right in the chest, leaving a hole where the rest of the song should have been. It had potential to be great and at 2:32, they could have easily fit in another verse, bridge or hardcore guitar solo. It’s a pity really as you’re simply begging for more.
Joseph, Psychic Reader and Fight Song are largely forgettable with their signature simplistic guitar riffs and frustratingly monotonous lyrics. To be honest it’s difficult to remember which one is which, as there is nothing distinguishable about any of them.
By track six, faith in this band’s diversity and talent is waning. Enter Things We Never Say to awaken the listener from their musically induced coma. This is a real eye-opener, as the acoustic style complements Kerry’s soft voice beautifully and the heartfelt lyrics tease empathy from the listener. At this point, it is a fresh change from the preceding mediocre Indie tracks. It has to be said that Kerry paints an interesting picture with her lyrics, when she isn’t annoyingly repeating the same phrase. It leaves you with a hopeful optimism, thinking that this band could be something after all.
Alas, this is not to be as the latter half of the album descends back into the safety net of the dull, trivial tones Bad Bad Hats seem to enjoy so much. By now, it has been done to death which admittedly makes it difficult to reach the finale. It almost makes the artist seem apathetic, which I can’t imagine is the impression they were aiming for with this album.
Bad Bad Hats lack any kind of life with Psychic Reader. They could be forgiven for their simplicity and lack of depth as this is their first album and hope, nay pray that they learn from their mistakes and improve drastically before releasing their next record.
Psychic Reader is now available through Afternoon Records.