I like writing music reviews for Smile Politely. The number of talented musicians in Champaign-Urbana never ceases to amaze me. Several years ago I did a write-up on a band called Bad Columbus. Sometime after, one of the band members emailed me, I think it was Patrick Shea, telling me he loved the piece and was using it as a “press release” to promote his group. I was touched by that. Here’s what he emailed me at the time about his thoughts on the CD ORDER NOW!
“We had a lot of fun making this album in bedrooms, basements, and backseats of cars. I hope people enjoy the tunes and humor!! I look forward to the future of Bad Columbus (est. 2008) and the possibility of dedicating a lot more time to songwriting and performing post-college.”
I checked Spotify and was happy to see the band has been keeping busy the past few years with a five-song EP released in 2018 and a live album released a year later. Good news! Below is my press release from October 2017.
The first album I ever correlated with the digital age was the splendid Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers. Released in 2005 — a time of MP3s and iPod mania — the album was a treasure trove of varied sounds. It was as if the members of The New Pornographers understood that people now cherished their personal playlists, which were wide-ranging, and went out of their way to release a diverse-sounding album.
ORDER NOW! by Bad Columbus sounds nothing like The New Pornographers, but the band’s ability to so deftly mix up its sound on one offering is as impressive as what The New Pornographers did more than a decade ago. The music on Bad Columbus’s first full-length offering — created in bedrooms, basements, and the backseats of cars, according to one of its members — has elements of lounge, reggae, hip hop, a bit of folk, and underused rock and roll. The first 20 seconds of the album tricks listeners into thinking they’re getting a Rancid-like punk album, and then the vibe completely disappears, never to return.
But that’s not a bad thing because ORDER NOW! kept my ears perked up throughout, guessing what might come next. Amazingly, all the sounds on the album are played and produced by two musicians. Max Dragoo played lead electric guitar and bass, took care of recording duties, and produced many of the beats. Patrick Shea sang, wrote lyrics, contributed acoustic and electric rhythm guitar, and played the ukulele in spots. Dragoo and Shea both played drums on ORDER NOW!, with Aidan Reilly taking care of drumming duties when the band performs live.
From the name and cover of the album to the entertaining, sometimes funny lyrics, Dragoo and Shea often convey a sense of playfulness within their well-crafted tunes. The album’s title track, for instance, sounds like a hip commercial jingle with simple, repetitive lyrics that do nothing more than “advertise” the band in a fun way.
Dragoo’s virtuoso electric guitar work often has a noodling sound that’s impressive, and Shea’s strumming is as equally solid. Shea has a good voice and sometimes sings in a bored, deadpan way or by spewing rapid-fire, observant lyrics.
Champaign-Urbana residents will get a kick out of the local sites mentioned on the album. The ultra-catchy “Gimme Some Java,” for instance, heralds a proud love of coffee with fast, free-flowing words that at one point give a shout-out to “a dirty little diner downtown” — none other than Sam’s Café. Prospect Avenue and Urbana are mentioned on other songs.
ORDER NOW! contains a cool mix of tunes to chill out to, tunes with hip-hop flair, and too few tunes of good old-fashioned rock and roll. Rock-wise, the dirty guitar licks heard on “Flat & Open” are pure Rolling Stones; the tightly crafted “Meander” has elements of punk and new wave; “Circles” is a jangly number written by Shea about leaving home and the excitement of personal independence; and the all-too-short “Ossifer Hoskins” — inspired by a police officer the boys once had a bit of trouble with — features a memorable guitar riff that left this listener excited for the possibility of more unabashed rock from Bad Columbus.
And maybe rock and roll or a punk album is in the band’s future. Based on the diverse musicality heard on ORDER NOW!, the sky is the limit in terms of what the band might have up its sleeve.
Above image provided by the band.