With the resurgence of the grunge and garage punk genres–no doubt due to the fact all of the teens and twenty-somethings that grew up listening to 90’s grunge and 2000’s garage punk music are starting their own bands–it’s no surprise that local Indy group Bad Fiction is reminiscent of bands like The Hives (circa Veni Vidi Vicious) or Nirvana (circa In Utero). In their debut EP, Red Light Syndrome , Bad Fiction’s distorted guitar, strained vocals, and disjointed drums meld into a spasmodic assault to the senses–in a good way, people. It holds an overwhelming nostalgia from beginning to end that makes it hard to pinpoint why a song titled “Shark of Wichita” reminds me of Jaws, which reminds me of being a child visiting family in Mississippi and being mercilessly bitten raw by fire ants. The point is, it made me think of something I haven’t thought about in a long time. Red Light Syndrome is the nostalgic musical equivalent of the Super Nintendo or Easy Bake Ovens–except it’s new and most people have yet to experience Bad Fiction’s songs.
So, what’s it sounds like?
Well, the first track on the album entitled “Ragamuffin” breaks in with displaced, ear-piercing guitar notes over a steady drum beat crescendoing into a two-chord progression that has the classic “garage band” sound we all came to love with grunge music. That distinct guitar travels throughout the whole album, with a few rich riffs that leave a sweet sound underneath the distortion. Not only that, but the ambient guitar about two-thirds of the way in adds a unique color to the song, bringing a fullness to the track that sounds like soft-serve ice cream. And something about the amp distantly humming in the background makes it sound better. I think they sum up “Ragmuffin,” in better terms, however, singing, “This is a serenade…” It totally is.
The second track, “Radio for Silence,” opens with a bare-bones, staccato guitar riff. Dirck’s vocals come in with the verse, a few lead guitar fills, and minimal drums. It seems to be a stripped down tune and then comes a guitar break where the band comes in full force, including guitar solos, that make you take a step back. That familiar guitar sound and hum radiates throughout this song prominently. The strength of “Radio for Silence” really stands in the guitar work. The solos are on point and the subtle use of bends adds a bold resonance.
“Line on the Left,” opens with a swift drum riff, followed by a beautiful two-part guitar intro. Dirck’s voice has the most range in this song, which brings another intriguing dynamic to the beast called Bad Fiction. This track lulls you into a false sense of security and then smacks you in the face, thanks to some screaming and abusive guitar.
The last track on the EP, “Shark of Wichita,” is the culmination of all the best parts of Bad Fiction. It has in-your-face vocals, ambient and distorted guitars, solos, and, of course, a questionably-recognizable-shark-theme-song-esq guitar riff. At about the halfway mark, there is a lull and only the bass remains, almost starting a second movement. Then vigorous shouts of “Shark of Wichita” bring the song to a close–before the outro audio clip of a deposition about murder of which I’m unfamiliar. Closing out the album with this songs makes you want more Bad Fiction.
It’s hard to compare the vocals of Nathan Dirck to anyone. One vocalist that came to mind was Jordan Dreyer of La Dispute, due to total disregard for tonality and distinct timbre, stuck in a static register. However, whereas Dreyer’s vocals are predominantly screaming–or what I can only describe as yell-talking–Dirck almost entirely sings his lyrics. Another name that stuck out was Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms, due specifically to the tone of his voice, but that’s about all they have in common. All in all, Dirck’s voice is something unique that really stands out.
Bad Fiction is creating some really great, grungy music, which is not abundant in the Indianapolis music scene. They are full of energy and make their live shows fun to watch (i.e. their set is full of weird little jigs, jumping off drum-sets, violent yelling, etc.). Not to mention, these dudes are only seventeen or eighteen and still in high school and for that alone they get a tip of the hat. Overall, Red Light Syndrome, gets “Four out of Five Lights.”