Bad Veins - The Mess We've Made
Record Label: Modern Outsider Records
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Cincinnati duo Bad Veins made quite a splash in the blogosphere with their self-titled debut album, landing on many Top 10 lists in 2009. And yet for all the hype about their studio efforts, the group still gets heaps of attention for their eccentric stage setup, which includes a reel-to-reel machine, a bedside table, an old telephone and a megaphone. But stripping away all that and just focusing on the music, Bad Veins is a first-rate indie pop band, writing some of the bubbliest songs the state of Ohio has ever seen.
On their sophomore effort The Mess We've Made, vocalist and principal songwriter Benjamin Davis sets the tone almost immediately: This album is most definitely a break-up record. Opener "Don't Run," which ostensibly serves as the title track, is a soaring, sugary pop smash that's equally as potent, if not more so, than anything the duo wrote on the self-titled. "Don't Run," is followed by the equally strong "Nursery Rhyme," a layered affair that's also probably one of the band's strongest to date.
As a whole, The Mess We've Made is a more sweeping and majestic album ("Chasing" and "Doubt" for example). But for all its arena-ready moments, there's a good dose of simple, understated gems ("I Turn Around,","Kindness."). Bad Veins' strength is vocalist Davis, whose timbre and utterances have a way of making each song sound sincere and authentic. His yearning and pleading is easy to relate to and one gets the feeling his songs actually stem from real life experiences.
The album's track listing though is hard to figure out. For example "Kindness," seems an appropriate way to close out the album, but is succeeded by the horn-laden "Not Like You." Similarly, the uber-catchy "Dancing on TV," is placed towards the end of the album and not towards the front. Instead, the tepid "If Then," is pushed towards the front for reasons unknown. While "If Then," is a good song, it draws much of its strength from violins and the verses and in turn, leaves the listener wanting more.
Whereas the self-titled was freewheeling and devil may care, The Mess We've Made feels safe and somewhat boring. That is to say, three years ago, with little pressure on them, the band wrote a record without caring what people think and made it a rousing success. This time around it feels like Bad Veins were more interested in catering to the masses. The end result: An effort that teeters more towards sophomore slump than Top 10 list. Let's hope album three is a lot more promising.