Bad Weather California: Sunkissed
Positivity and an outlook of sunshine and roses, in music as in all art forms as in life, can sometimes be accused of gross naivety. So those who believe that profundity can only come from heartache, realism or ideology should approach Denver's Bad Weather California with some caution. These are four young men who have unabashedly chosen life.
And frankly, when it is done this well, with equal parts musical imagination and all the vivid lyrical colours of adolescent vim, it's very hard not to get on board. Bad Weather California may well irritate some, but in themselves they secure a blissful state of inclusiveness, good humour and, oddly, a kind of meditative calm. From the rock and roll of 'Freaks and Geeks' to the ska-indebted 'I'll Reach Out My Hand', this is unadulterated glee.
The quartet, who are not exactly in the first flush of youth and whose members have meandered in and out of bands since the 90s, have been around for seven years for two significant facts up until this LP. They had released one previous, well-received album on a smaller label (Sunkissed is out on Akron/Family's Family Tree), and they were once backing band to Daniel Johnston, although it is difficult to locate any significant common ground between the two. Bad Weather California are fine musicians, clearly value production and steer away from heartbreak and anything particularly psychological.
Over on the band's predictably exuberant website there is a declaration that Bad Weather California are "taking misfit culture back to the streets" and that the punk ethic runs through their work. But this seems a slight misjudgement – at no point do they approach anything like anger, while there aren't even very loud. But then again, neither is there any strong sort of lazy, mellow, stoned or dappled-by-the-sun feeling. Then there is the charming 'I'll Sing Along', a quite unexpectedly accomplished ballad acting as a measured and calm conversation among the ebullient celebrations of the rest of the record.
To fully express their blissful disposition, they explore close to the full gamut of all those styles that are most suited to joy. The result is that the sound Bad Weather California achieve in the outbursts of high-jinks and youthful pleasure that are their songs (as well as their more staid moments) is often thoroughly reminiscent of Devendra Banhart's fine 2009 album What Will We Be. Both artists invest in the high-pitched, tinkling guitar that is meant to represent carefree high spirits. What Bad Weather California bring to it in abundance, however, is additional funk and sexuality – it is not quite a childish or innocent form of delight we are dealing with.
That's not to say that the spectrum of rock is their sole inspiration. The album's most gripping and satisfying track, 'Let It Shine', featuring call and response vocals and such suggestive lines as "If you don't mind if I go down low shout oh oh oh oh", has such a gloriously perverse instrumental line as to hint at The Beastie Boys and libidinous soul.
There is cock-sure swagger, to be sure. There are also a fair few skater references, but as they themselves would advocate, we must look past that and see just the positives.