BAD MARY Trash & Glamour EP

Bad Mary’s third release, 2016’s ‘We Could Have Saved The World’ presented a great blend of pop punk and trashy rock, as if the band had absorbed little bits of the second Save Ferris album and Duff McKagan’s Loaded, before regurgitated them with bits of Bowling For Soup’s pop savvy, which created something of their own. It was the kind of EP that deserved to win fans quickly, and on their 2019 full length, the band showed off an equally impressive array of musical skills that suggested their love of classic styles wasn’t about to wear thin any time soon.

During the tricky pandemic lockdown years, they further busied themselves by releasing EP’s of cover tunes which, whilst not stretching their artistic talents, certainly captured their range of influences in an effective way. Those not already familiar with the Bad Mary sound would definitely find these releases an easy entry point, since the love and spirit coming through their energetic recordings of tunes by artists as disparate as The Police, Jefferson Airplane and Donna Summer captures the Bad Mary sense of fun.

Their much anticipated return in 2023 continues a run of great recordings, and although the production values of the ‘Trash & Glamour’ EP sound a little thin in places, Bad Mary’s knack for punchy but melodic songcraft holds firm. Five of it’s six cuts are very strong, providing an easy reminder of you why you love the band.

Aiming squarely for the punk ‘n’ roll end of their sound, the brilliant ‘Are You With The Band?’ hits hard with a superbly trashy guitar riff set against a punchy drum part. The way guitarist David Henderson utilises a stop-start approach during the verses allows vocalist Amanda Mac more room to wail, and hitting the instrumental break, he launches into a hard edged off kilter solo that accentuates the number’s trashy style. By keeping the track inside of two and a half minutes, it further showcases the Bad Mary lean and mean approach. Equally punchy, the less than subtle ‘I Just Called To Say Fuck You’ drops into a hard edged hybrid sound where old style punk ‘n’ roll riffs power forward, occasionally teasing with the core melody of AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’. As with many of the best Bad Mary tunes, the harder edges are tempered by a poppier element, and in this case, the pop comes via a lax lead vocal where Amanda sounds like she’s channelling an old Stretch Princess tune or two, and despite a slightly flat delivery, the attitude in her voice more than helps to make the track. Musically, it’s just as strong: Bill Mac’s drumming captures a very natural sound, and the louder edge to Henderson’s guitar work sounds particularly sharp. The DIY production means that bassist Mike Staub isn’t as high in the mix as he deserves to be, but it’s a minor point – and he definitely makes up for it elsewhere.

Even more rock ‘n’ roll, the music of ‘The Floor Is Lava’ is really punchy from the outset, and Amanda’s voice is impressive on a pre-chorus where she reaches for a couple of huge notes, but unfortunately, in a rare mis-step, there’s not much to back that up. A sassy sing-speak vocal reminiscent of The Ting Tings makes the track sound instantly dated, and although a cheerleader style moment along the way – possibly inspired by the spoken interlude from Taylor Swift’s classic pop tune ‘Set It Off’ – is well meaning, it becomes a little annoying in record time. Luckily, the balance is quickly redressed by ‘Light It Up’, a speed driven punky romp where the riffs are thrashed out in a more aggressive way than usual, and the listener gets to experience Bad Mary at full throttle. In a little over two minutes, a selection of relentless whoahs underscore a really energised lead vocal, whilst musically, a grumbling bass and busy rhythm guitar hints at a massive love for tough sounding 90s punk. It’s one of those numbers where the energy takes precedence over melody, but for fans of the style, it could well become a real favourite.

The more melodic ‘It’s All Trash’ mixes chopping riffs and big bass sounds calling back to the bits of ‘We Could’ve Saved The World’ that shared a little DNA with Duff McKagan’s Loaded, and in doing so, sounds really retro and really muscular in the best possible way. With a lighter vocal from Amanda adding a wealth of extra melody and a harmony driven hook where the title is spat like a mantra, it’s one of the most fully formed Bad Mary tunes to date. There are moments when the love for post-punk and new wave bands comes through so strongly in the vocal, some listeners might even be reminded of NY Loose – a band rarely mentioned after 1998 – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Best of all, ‘Vibe-icide’ serves up a huge slice of punk ‘n’ roll where Staub shares a massive bass rattle, helping to drive a massive hard rock tune juxtaposed by the kind of vocal that comes closer to something from the Spinnerette LP. In terms of presenting Bad Mary in a less punky, full on rocky mode, they’ve rarely sounded better. Amanda hits upon a semi-shrill tone throughout that has a great energy, whilst Henderson drops in with a high octane lead break. It’s a full band effort that uses Bad Mary’s vast array of influences in a manner that shows off all four members equally, placing them somewhere between The Muffs and a late 80s hard rock act with a sleazy undertone.

At this EP’s best, its combo of punchy riffs and sassy hooks are classic Mary, and a slightly more DIY approach this time out often enhances the songs’ sneering and trashy feel. As before, Bad Mary aren’t exactly out to change the world musically, but their fun and fierce approach to pop punk and punk ‘n’ roll will often make it feel better. Despite not being a perfect release – few recordings are, to be fair – fans and first timers alike will find lots to love here.

Visit the Bad Mary website here.

May 2023

One thought on “BAD MARY Trash & Glamour EP

  1. Excellent summation of this EP. You know your stuff, based on some of the other rather obscure bands you used as reference points. I like the fact you weren’t a “gusher,” where the bandcould never do wrong, but you picked up on a few instances where you felt things could’ve been done better or differently. I think any fan of this type of music, would want to hear Bad Mary, based on your review. Good work, thoughtfully written. 9/10.

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