Sometimes bands burst upon the music scene with a brightness that can cause the eyes of rock’s biggest critics to blink and give pause to their victory chant, “Rock is dead.” Unfortunately, the brightness is oftentimes the signaling of a supernova.
Recently, I stumbled across a review I wrote a few years back for Welcome to the Wasteland, the debut album by Bad City. For those not familiar with the band, it spawned from members of two bands, Powerspace and Thee Armada. Both well worth checking out, but for different reasons than Welcome to the Wasteland. Here’s the review I wrote:
For years, ’80s rock bands have tried to recapture the glory of dueling guitars and the loud chant-along choruses of arena rock. And they’ve failed. It’s partly due to a fickle music scene that takes kids with bad haircuts and questionable talent and turns them into pop stars. But, these rock bands are also to blame. Their recent offerings haven’t been strong enough break the spell of auto-tuned puppets.
But, that’s about to change. The irony is those ’80s bands aren’t going to be the saviors of the genre they shaped. Four guys from Chicago and a charismatic singer from California, all of whom were toddlers in rock’s heyday, are going to be rock’s Flash Gordon.
From the intro of “Showdown in Central Park” Bad City makes no apologies for being loud and sleazy. And they shouldn’t. The world needs dirty rock and roll to settle our stomachs after ingesting many years of bubblegum pop music. If radio gives Bad City’s “Take Me for a Ride” a shot , the Biebers of the world will be shaking in their purple high tops.
But, Bad City isn’t an ’80s hair band revival. The band takes the best parts of the genre and mixes them with hints of the Smashing Pumpkins, Queen, and a little Cheap Trick. It’s a unique sound that gives me the faith to say rock isn’t dead, it’s merely been hibernating, and the savage beast is about to wake.
In “Do You Believe In Rock and Roll, ” singer Josh Caddy asks, “Do you remember rock and roll?” If your answer is no,Welcome to the Wasteland will jolt your memory. If you’re like me, and your answer is yes, then Bad City is here to save every one of us…just like Flash Gordon.
If you can’t tell from the review, I was pretty damn excited with the record. I grew up in the eighties and nineties when hard rock, and then grunge, ruled radiowaves and MTV. Hearing a band that understood that dueling guitar solos and arena-rock choruses weren’t fossils waiting to be dug up on a Youtube search by some smart ass kid looking for the new Drake video was a sign from Dio. Rock wasn’t dead.
And then Bad City faded away. Maybe it was destiny. At times, the lyrics were prophetic. Words like “We might fuck it up, but we had a good time” hinted to a short-lived juggernaut whose sole purpose was to shake fans who had given up on rock music with a rousing shot to the ears. The reasons why Bad City no longer exists are not important. What is important is that Bad City existed. It’s concrete proof that Night Ranger’s claim of you can still rock in America is true. Bad City released twelve songs and Fight As One ,the theme to Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which is leaps above anything on the actual Avengers movie soundtrack. These songs give hope to us dreamers who long for music that makes us want to raise our invisible microphones to the air, shred air guitar, and scream, “We are the kings of the nighttime world” in the face of today’s music scene .
In a short time, Bad City lived the rock and roll dream, touring with the Smashing Pumpkins, Hinder, and this little band named KISS. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan called Bad City, “A super fresh take on the rock.” Paul Stanley said that Wasteland was the best album he’d heard in ages. (This is not a crack on Paul Stanley’s age, but that’s a long fucking time!) The Starchild also said that Bad City was out of most bands’ reach.
The problem with most bands claiming to be rock these days is they are carbon copies of bands that really weren’t good to begin with. It happened in the late eighties with hair metal. It happened in the nineties with grunge. When a band strikes gold, there’s ten others willing to offer their creativity as sacrifice for a ticket to ride the success train. Bad City stood out because it didn’t copy KISS. It didn’t copy the Smashing Pumpkins. Bad City fused its musical influences and produced music that, well, as Corgan said, was super fresh. One of my favorite quotes is by Hugh Macleod, “The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” Bad City was the wolf with a lone record that should have all of the Seether Wannabe bands rethinking their game plans. (And it should really make Bret Michaels question recording “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” for the umpteenth time.)
I bought Welcome to the Wasteland on the day it was released in 2010. I still listen to it today. You should as well. It’s on my stranded island list. It makes me believe in rock n roll. And I’m holding out hope that one day Bad City will decide it’s time to save rock again. If not, Bad City will live forever on a radio wave.
So it was written. So it is told.