by Trea Lavery
If you’re looking for a punch in the face, LA-based rock band Badflower is happy to provide.
The four-piece’s debut full-length OK, I’M SICK, released Feb. 22, is a 55-minute-long hit to the gut, both sonically and lyrically. Each song lands a new blow with no time for you to catch your breath – and that’s a good thing.
After Badflower’s 2016 EP Temper landed them the title of iTunes’ artist of the Week, they were hailed as part of a new generation of rock, sticking to the genre’s sacred tenets without the over-production and theatrics of many of their contemporaries. OK, I’M SICK generally follows that theme for the band, although it does lend a bit more theatricality than their previous releases.
The chaotic opener “x ANA x” breathtakingly kicks the album off. A whiplash-inducing headbanger, the song features lyrics about singer/guitarist Josh Katz’s stage anxiety. The song is followed up by “The Jester,” an ode to feeling alone in a world with all eyes on you. “Ghost,” the single which brought the album attention when it dropped, is a better litmus test of the album’s tone, with its lyrics dealing with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The band does not shy away from talking about difficult topics on this album. In addition to the first few (and middle, and last) songs that talk about mental health in very explicit terms, other topics include same-sex relationships (“We’re in Love”), sexual abuse (“Daddy,” which is seriously difficult to even listen to), drug abuse and the violence in the meat and dairy industry (“Murder Games”). “Die” talks about, in no uncertain terms, the Trump presidency: “If deplorable is moral ‘cause it’s what you’re told / Then take your Bible and swallow it whole…/ Impeach the asshole and all of his friends.”
While the album spans a lot lyrically, it doesn’t give the listener much downtime or variation sonically. “24” and “Cry,” two heartbreaking suicide ballads, are the only real slow points, and offer a much-needed breath from the onslaught. The intensity of each individual song is great, but with 13 tracks, the album as a whole isn’t necessarily easy to listen to in one sitting.
At the same time, “OK, I’M SICK” is peppered with My Chemical Romance-esque drama that makes it fun to listen to, with each song providing unique guitar riffs that ensures the harshness doesn’t blur together.
Badflower has provided a mature debut which is sure to provide a return to real rock music, talking about real issues and kicking their listeners’ ears in while they’re at it. The band is still figuring out how to balance their sound, but are bound to create a whole new world of rock in the future.