Like a daisy popping out of the scorched earth or a mud fight in the Louvre, Bad Things Don’t Happen to Bad People is a record composed of these trembling pockets of quiet beauty sandwiched between deafening, bipolar bouts of pure chaos.
The record is an angsty, PCP-spiked prom-punch rager, yes, but one with a conscience — its punched walls patched and shattered windows boarded up with just enough meditation to make a statement worth hearing.
And that’s not an easy feat for a band so young and new, making Bad Things a commendable, if occasionally uneven, effort.
Marry Jawbreaker with Death from Above 1979 or give Dananananaykroyd an adrenaline shot and you have a good starting point, sonically speaking. The four-piece shares the same wry sense of humor as the latter two, which is important here. (One of its songs is called “Kenny Rogers and Jerry Garcia Are the Same Person,” for Christ’s sake.)
As viscerally exciting as Bad Things can be, it also gets caught up in its teeth-gnashing and fist-pounding, and those short breaths (“We Gotta Get That Wolf,” “JockStoppers”) are just enough to keep the band from mashing itself into a bloody pulp.
Opener “Dear God, Life Is Hell” works best in terms of bringing the sun and shadow into the same stretch of two minutes; a strobe light blink of thrashing guitar riffs and melodic math-rock flourishes before embracing both equally from the climax to close. “I Hate All of Your Friends,” a delightfully off-kilter vignette of vertigo-afflicted bass progressions and throbbing distortion, does the same in different ways, bouncing against padded walls with a short-circuiting jetpack strapped to its back.
“Kenny Rogers” is the most bloated entry, both in length (just shy of six minutes) and arrangement, lumbering along with all the sweaty, puffy grace of Rob Ford post-bender. It might have worked if reserved for an exhausted collapse of an ending, but the song shakes Milk Jr’s momentum, inserted pretty violently mid-effort.
As it stands, though, “Top Gun From the Top” is a top-notch thesis statement. It’s the most polished and grown-up we find Milk Jr in its first outing, grinding down its emo-bent noise rock inclinations for ’90s college-rock hooks in a great singular testimony.
That pairing of ire and artistic ambition will serve Milk Jr well as it reconciles those two worlds moving forward, and despite a few errant punches, Bad Things proves to be a party worth a black eye or two.