Rock music! How very unexciting. Sydney’s Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are definitely a rock band, and listening to Ready For Boredom, there’s no disputing they’ve heard a lot of it. At least one of the guys in this band works in a record store.
In a recent blog post, Simon Reynolds addressed a Pitchfork review of Interpol’s debut reissue, which claimed that in retrospect, 2002 “may have been the very year that we stopped talking about how music sounds, and started talking about what other music it sounds like.” Reynolds points out that this “delirium referentia” isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to post-millennial rock music, and that it was endemic in the ye olde Forced Exposure zine back in the ’80s, and propagated by groups like Pavement – members of which also worked in record stores. Basically, a lot of modern rock music is defined by its intimate understanding of the rock ‘n roll eco-system: how it responds and adapts to tradition. The press release for this Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys’ LP cites three other, older bands, because that’s how you know whether this band is good for you or not. That’s just the way we talk about rock music: in footnotes and references; in genre compounds; in terms of what band A created, and how they led the way for band B. While that tendency has become more explicit since the i******t, it’s certainly not unique to the ’00s and beyond.
I mention this because it feels necessary to acknowledge that on paper, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys is a very average band. On that alphabetical continuum, they’d be band Z. Four guys making rock music you’ve heard before. Trading in riffs you could swear you’ve heard elsewhere. The band has three vocalists and exactly none of them can quite hit the notes they want to. When sometimes they do, you want to golf clap and fist bump them. On Ready For Boredom they don’t even resort to low fidelity to mask their technical shortcomings. This is not music composed with music critics in mind. It’s a collection of dots connected.
Ready For Boredom is the best rock record I have heard for years, though. It makes me immensely happy, it makes me feel soft in the stomach, and it makes me angry when someone doesn’t feel the same way. How does this happen? I can talk about emotions, and how relatable and life-affirming these songs are, and how much love for the form these guys demonstrate through their playing and songwriting, but… you know, other older bands do that well too. It’s objectively true that Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are great because of their songs, but for me, they’re important in a kinda old fashioned way: they sail against the wind, they push against the norm. Not in a formally important sense, but more for the way they implicitly antagonise that “delirium referentia” by making the most proletariat, empathetic, and common rock music there could be in 2013, but in the most blatantly unfashionable way possible. There is no jangle here. No disinterest. No apathy. They care so much about rock music and life that it’s kinda disorientating. They’re trying really, really hard. When I listen to Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, I know that rock music is a vehicle. It’s a set of rules that happen to correlate with what is important to these four guys. It makes sense to speak in this language.
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys write songs that you can blindly skol longnecks to, but some of them are quite devastatingly sad, and crucial to that – and what defines the album as a whole – is the feeling of outgrowing rock ‘n roll but still wanting it. Of no longer being a youth but still wanting to be. Of realigning your priorities despite your instincts. In some ways, Ready For Boredom feels like an album about outgrowing a rock ‘n roll ‘lifestyle’: of wondering how to possibly transition between reckless and balanced in the blink of an eye (if only that were possible!).
Ready For Boredom is not a blind celebration of youth, it’s not a party album, and it’s not a “punk” album. There is monumental fear here. The nominal boredom = comfort. A life on the fringes and a diet of cup-a-soup is no longer attractive. Let’s settle down. We’re ready for boredom. Yet despite possibly being wimps, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are stubbornly a meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll band that make music you already know you’re gonna like.
It’s writ large on several of the songs here. ‘Have You Ever’ asks whether you’ve “slept through an entire weekend” in a tone that suggests that’s a complete waste of your resources. ‘Bite My Tongue’ is about keeping your mouth shut – not operating entirely on instinct, learning tact and the importance of it. During ‘Ready For Boredom’, Nic Warnock admits that he’s “sick and tired of the rest of society” but wonders whether he should be bored, and then, whether you wouldn’t mind being bored with him. At no point do Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys implore you to get loose, despite the music physically demanding it. Rather, they’re there: taking the hits we all do as we journey from dumb arse punk to actual human being.
Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t a lifestyle anymore. It can sound like it is, but it isn’t. Everyone needs to shift gears, everyone needs to earn a crust. The world is hostile. Everyone needs to survive. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys encapsulate the other rock ‘n roll experience in 2013. This record knows that the modern understanding of rock ‘n roll is the province of the advantageous. It’s an alternative lifestyle you can only live if you’re lucky enough to be born into wealth, or brave enough to rough it.
This group doesn’t fit that lineage. You’ll want to keep playing their record when you’re strapped to a mortgage and commuting three hours a day in the direction of a desk. They want you to feel accounted for when the rest of the world renders you meaningless. This is a record about rock’s glorious, irresistible folly, but it’s not a capitulation: it merely addresses your neuroses, their neuroses, and assures you that you’re not alone. It’s a bearhug followed by an affectionate punch in the gut.
It also sounds like Guided By Voices, Slade, The Replacements, Kiss, Green Day (seriously!) and a bunch of other bands you’ve probably heard before. Rock music! How weird is it. This band is called Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys.
Label: R.I.P Society (available January 14)
Release date: January 2013