Anyone who said guitar parts have to be heavier than a sack of rocks to make sense didn’t see the likes of Bad Veins returning to the spotlight this October, specifically their new single “Wendy” and its companion music video. Although the guitars are pretty sleek in this track, they cut through the bassline like a hot knife through butter and ultimately feel like the greatest point of expression in the whole of the song, which is no small statement to make when considering the depth of the lead vocal from Benjamin Davis here. Bad Veins could care less whether the critics think alternative rock is dead; in “Wendy,” they’re putting it to the audience with more panache than I’ve heard from a mainstream pop act in years.
The back end of this mix is honestly as powerful as the front is, especially in terms of the relationship between the bass and the percussion. While there’s no denying that the guitar parts are the most significant source of melodic potency in this single, the bassline is such a legit foundation that the drums can colorize the rhythm with a bit more virtuosity than they would in a more straightforward arrangement. It’s obvious to me that these guys probably grew up on the standards of alternative music and particularly post-punk, as their approach to near-pristine harmonies is at the core of what makes “Wendy” such an interesting listen. Perhaps things could have been a little tighter in general, but they would be sacrificing the melodic edge that wins my favor more than anything else in this performance.
Davis’ vocal doesn’t have the same boost in the mix that the main riff does, but I get the impression it was meant to be overshadowed by the instrumentation to a certain extent as if to establish some contrast where other bands would have gone for consistency. It’s a different take on a familiar role player in pop music and best of all, it still manages to punctuate the melodies with a linguistic literacy that you can’t find much of in the majority of rock music coming out of the woodwork in 2023. The term smart rock isn’t often used in the truest sense, but listening to a piece of material like this one makes me reconsider its real meaning as being a compliment.
Bad Veins is experimenting with an intriguing hybrid of themes at the moment, and while it’s difficult to say where this artistic direction is going to lead them next, there’s no getting around their likability in “Wendy.” This isn’t the most elaborate indie rock you’re going to come across this autumn by any measurement, but what it lacks in bombastic theatrics this song more than makes up for in both originality and sharp melodic presence. It’s indie rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something a lot of music connoisseurs have been asking for through numerous decades to little response from the underground as a whole. Bad Veins is answering the call here, and they deserve plenty of accolades for their effort.