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Bad Moves - Tell No One (Album Review)

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 Written by Huw Baines

Bad Moves are a bit late for summer but they’ve brought with them ‘Tell No One’, a debut album seemingly tailor-made for that dog-eared, sunlit past when your favourite song was always just around the corner on the radio.

The Washington, D.C. quartet have more than a little of Martha about them (the bands are former tourmates) but where the Durham group offer indie-punk by way of Paul Heaton’s discography, Bad Moves have the spirit of power-pop and a dash of Tom Petty in their veins: they’re not flash, but they make good decisions when it matters.

That plays out in the ringing guitar flourishes scattered across Give it a Shot, and the way Spirit FM seems to tumble from hook to hook to hook. There’s no rule out there saying that you should only hang your hat on a decent chorus, and Bad Moves know it.

Guitarist David Combs, both with the Max Levine Ensemble and as Spoonboy, has previous with this sort of stuff. Here, though, each melody is chopped up and shared out for reassembly any one of four ways, with bassist Emma Cleveland, guitarist Katie Park and drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen also sharing vocal duties in a communal effort. Their lines are delivered with the sort of exuberance not typically reserved for jigsaw puzzles.

The forensic nature of some of these songs has been transposed into a sort of joyous free for all, with producer Joe Reinhart (of Hop Along fame) keeping everything crisp and high energy without dispensing with a layer of fuzz. The album as a whole is also sequenced beautifully, making it feel like one jolt of fun after another.

It’s almost like a bait-and-switch, only instead of foisting knock off trainers on a mark, Bad Moves have hidden their meticulous graft beneath an exterior that suggests Technicolor mayhem. Particularly satisfying is the transition between two of the LP’s finest tracks, namely the singles One Thing and Cool Generator. It recalls the moment when a favourite band kicks into a favourite song out of nowhere.

The latter is also a good example of the lyrical weight behind ‘Tell No One’. It’s a sweet, sweet jam that doubles as a discussion of the capitalist mission to mine the culture and labour of society’s most oppressed people for cash. Similarly, Spirit FM’s sugary, ebullient charge is underpinned by, and serves as a riposte to, Park’s investigation of the way a religious upbringing can affect queer identity.

The album’s title is a thread holding it together, reflecting its themes of self-discovery and the idea that who we are is something we feel the need to keep a lid on when we’re young. ‘Tell No One’ holds this concept close to its heart, and has the sort of hopeful, resolute pop spirit that’s perfectly suited to a celebratory conclusion.

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