Bad Suns – Mystic Truth

2 out of 5

Label: Epitaph

Produced by: Dave Sardy

I normally praise producer Dave Sardy’s ability to suss out and enhance a band’s strongest abilities with his production, or zeroing in on something that works when a ‘strongest’ element might be lacking.  Matched with his preference for a clean, raw, deep sound, it’s allowed me to have faith that projects that he works on, more often than not, are worth listening to.

There are always going to be mismatches, though, when Sardy’s sound, perhaps, isn’t the best match for what the band wants, and then there are going to be times when what I’ve identified as a skill of his… fails.

For literally half of Bad Suns’ Mystic Truth, the group and Sardy synergize to dress their radio friendly, 80s-dashed rock pop into a rich, damned catchy, glitzed up Brit-popped version of the same, particularly on opener Away We Go.  Different pieces get the focus per track – guitar riffs, a funky bass line, vocal harmonies, swirling keys – overcoming vocalist Chris Bowman’s completely unremarkable, harmless pitch and bland, singalong-style lyrics to achieve some consistent head bobbing.  Having done a fly by on other Bad Suns track from previous discs to compare, the group seemed ready to add some more production flourish to their sound via electronics and effects, and Sardy helps to make that sound pretty good.

Then, for the other half of Mystic Truth, the group decides to drop all of that, and deliver milquetoast, EZ-listening, hollow pap.  Sardy seems lost here, pumping up the programmed-drum-sounding backbeat and the 80s glitter, but it only enhances how little – to my ears – originality the group truly brings to things, having apparently run out of ideas on those first five songs.  Some successful melodies and moments poke through, with suddenly inspired singing or a burst of a riff, but these moments are truly fleeting, and die in the songs’ genericness soon after.

Through several listens, swinging back around to the disc’s better half, I hoped I’d find the throughline to enhance its latter part, but no such luck.  And, alas, when an album hits such middling material for several songs up through its ending… it becomes rather forgettable, good opening track or not.