The opening seconds of “Mjölner” from Bad Dude’s sophomore effort Eat Drugs is deceptive. The guitar and bass frantically strum the same chord while the cymbals build the tension to a climactic break. With such an adolescent name and album title, one might expect the band to be another cookie cutter entry from the punk/screamo scene. However, what emerges after those few measures is some of the most energetic and quirky progressive music I’ve ever heard. Indeed, this album is a unique experience, showcasing originality rarely found these days.
Reformed from So Cal outfit Miracle Chosuke, Bad Dudes have been described as “party-prog.” They mix undeniable technical proficiency with silly lyrics and goofy sounds. They are clearly influenced by the complexity of Dream Theater, but also mix in doses of Devo’s synth sound and the humor of Ween and The Residents. Eat Drugs will appeal to the most serious composers as well as those who know nothing about musical construction. In fact, each track is so fresh and unpredictable that in-depth description is called for.
The biggest comparison to another act should be to California’s An Endless Sporadic (whose tracks have appeared in “Guitar Hero III” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland”). Both bands love creating tricky instrumentals with a touch of weirdness. Indeed, Eat Drugs consists mostly of vocal-less madness. Tracks like “Secret Protector,” “Cabana Boyzz, B.C.” and “Vanity Care” change time signatures too often to count. It’s astounding that these guys can create and perform such difficult yet constantly intriguing pieces. Even the songs that have a singer contain rapid shifts in tempo. The concluding piece, “Preteen Wolf,” opens almost identically to “Signify” by Porcupine Tree (perhaps the best band in the genre today). It is fantastically frenzied.
As for the actual songs and quirkiness on Eat Drugs, “Heterosaucer” sounds like an alien singing 80s pop. In the middle of the song, the famous guitar riff of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” is modified. A bit later, sounds like those of a Nintendo NES MIDI are heard. “Better Than Nature” is disco prog at its finest. The title track is a more direct punk rock song. The vocals alternate between “I want to do drugs but I’m afraid of drugs” and “nah nah nah nah nah”. Clearly, these guys don’t take themselves seriously. “Suez” captures the English rock sound of Television and new bands like The Strokes and Sloan. The aggression of “Casual Encounters (Of the Third Kind)” complements its simplistic chant of “Little boys. Little girls. They still have a long way to go.” Finally, “Finger,” coming in at 86 seconds in length, has the almost the same dreamlike melancholic melody of “Julia” from the Beatles’ The White Album. It is surprisingly beautiful vocally.
Eat Drugs proves that sometimes the most adventurous and noteworthy bands are those unknown. Bad Dudes is more concerned with impressing listeners with technical wizardry and amusing subjects than attempting the great songwriting and symphonic ambience of groups like Genesis and Spock’s Beard. This is not a flaw though. These guys promote their strengths and mock their weaknesses. They make surprising and perplexing prog rock, and all lovers of music would benefit from exposure.