23rd August | Rough Trade
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
“This is an acoustic set, so I hope you like Christian prayer songs, or Mumford and Sons,” Callum jokingly says as the Bad Sounders enter on stage. It’s the final date of their acoustic shows and if you happened to be at their intimate gig at Rough Trade the other night, you can appreciate how special it is. I am keen to see how they would recreate such buoyant songs in an acoustic setting, to the point of being sceptical. Yet Bad Sounds definitely rival the original recordings. Here’s hoping that there will be a stripped-back album (or even a folk-themed album) featuring acoustic versions somewhere along the line.
They kick things off with jaunty anthem, ‘Wages’, Ewan on keys and Charles on guitar, playing the lead riff as opposed to the roaring fanfare on the recording. Callum is on acoustic guitar with Sam sitting next to him on bass, while Olivia coolly sits behind her drum kit. ‘Wages’ is a gutsy tune with plenty of brass instruments and sound effects, however the acoustic version is a much more tender affair. Ewan’s jovial deliverance of the lyrics – ‘now I ain’t sulking/ I’m just too sober to dance’ – along with the ad-hoc manner of having no written setlist, it feels as though I am watching them down my local pub.
‘How Are You Gonna Lose?’ then follows, a shimmering and driven ditty which features Callum on lead vocals. His effortless falsetto, along with the three-part harmonies are dreamlike; the hook is insanely catchy and impossible not to groove along to, even in an acoustic setting. “Go on, Ewan, you’re drunk. Say something,” Callum lightheartedly says after the song had ended.
Next tune is ‘Evil Powers’, normally drenched in electro-pop and a decent helping of eerie sound effects. I’m intrigued to see how this would work acoustically. A killer keys intro from Ewan and a thumping bass from Sam makes for a pleasingly massive sound. The rendition of ‘Couldn’t Give It Away’ is incredibly charming. The usually upbeat number is stripped back to only Callum and Ewan performing, adding a real sense of delicacy. Mid-song, Charles then gestures for everyone to get out the torches on their mobile phones, Wembley Arena style. The audience-participation sea of swaying torches more or less in time with the song, only makes the experience more intimate.
Hip-hoppy tune, ‘Zacharia’ was insanely good. A playful riff and angelic harmonies make this version a certified hit. There are even a few flairs of jazz during the instrumental in the second half of the song. Finishing the night is killer, stand-out track from their debut, ‘Milk It’ (minus Ardyn). Callum’s gutsy vocals deliver each line with true grit, and the synth-pop dance beat ensures that everyone is dancing.
Bad Sounds are unlike anything that’s happening right now. Be good to yourself and buy a ticket for their show at SWX in October. Their in-store acoustic gig was as truly special as it was surreal.