Photo Credit: Bad Suns Promo via Website
The fourth full-length studio album by Woodland, California band Bad Suns Apocalypse Whenever doesn’t actually convey either indifference or the end of the world. On the contrary: most of it is both characteristically fun (if not “fun” with a serious side), and a great deal of care and planning went into making it. Not only that, but right from the get-go, there’s a heartfelt sincerity to be found on the album. The opening cut (and title track) starts with a slow (almost cautious) build before coming into itself with a strong mid-tempo projection. Lyrically, the song reflects the contradiction of the song (and the album’s) title, as both a declaration of self (“Life tried to break me // But life fell apart… // I’ve never felt so alive”) and admission of heartbreak via unrequited love (“I used to call you after school // Now I’m crawling back to you”) and how the two points meet.
That contradictory nature continues with “Summer Lighting”, a great, atmospheric pop song where just the title suggests – yet again – the theme of having to deal with both joy and heartbreak in equal parts. “Baby Blues Shades” is a kinetic but nicely understated ’90s-styled song, while “Peachy” is just that, bouncy and a lot of fun with probably the best chorus on the album (and the section where all instrumentation is dropped except acoustic piano is a nice touch). The positive trajectory on the overall record continues with “When the World Was Mine”, which also features a good electronic instrumental break. Listeners will also probably care to give a listen to “Life Was Easier When I Only Cared About Me”, another solid one.
“Silent Screaming” presents a further juxtaposition via possibly the album’s most compelling lyrics (“Silently screaming // Lies on the phone // Every reason to let go // Of every demon // Clutching my bones”), not to mention a great saxophone solo. “Electric Circus” opens with an interesting ’70s-like soul chant, and the rest of the song delivers as well. “Grace (I Think I’m In Love Again)” is arguably the album’s best cut, with its simple lyrics, strong hook, and perfectly-fitting backing vocals. As the second-to-last song to appear, it’s also an appropriate into-the-home-stretch track for the record. Lead vocalist Joe Schmoe sings the heck out of the ambitiously-title album closer “Symphony of Light”, a more adult-sounding cut which might be the band’s way of signing off with one by leaving behind the message that they have every intention of evolving musically.
In terms of Bad Suns in the present time, well, there isn’t much variety on the album as far as the sound from one song to another goes (there’s an argument to be made that some musical elements on the album even qualify as generic) but by the same token, the solid quality remains fairly consistent throughout the entire album. Guitarist Ray Libby is very good (if underused), and drummer Miles Morris moves things along with a nice selection of dance rock beats. For anyone looking for an album that lands at pretty much the exact middle point between mainstream pop and emo rock, Apocalypse Whenever is a very good album for right now.