I interviewed Badflower in the media tent at Northern Invasion in 2017. By that point, I had already fallen in love with their EP Temper and their debut single “Soap”. NI would be the second time I saw them live and both times they killed it. Meeting them face to face it hit me just how young these guys were. Even by rock standards. So when I saw them again a couple of weeks later at a bar in Minneapolis, as I was leaving I saw singer Josh Katz in the parking lot so I went over to say hello. It dawned on me he may be having a beer in the parking lot because he was too young to have one inside. Many of the artists I talk to are younger than me, but I don’t typically feel like a school chaperone when I’m talking to them. Outwardly I was just letting him know I came and enjoyed the show but subconsciously I think I wanted to tell him how proud I was of him.
Part of that comes from pining for the days of slamming a beer in a bar parking lot after a gig, but another part of that is grasping just how far beyond his years Josh is as a songwriter and lyricist. The topics he discusses lyrically have a depth you don’t see in a lot of young people. But probably more impressive is how he and guitarist Joey Morrow put those words to music and melody. A great song can hit regardless of the topic. Badflower did that with their early releases and continue that with their first full-length record OK, I’m Sick. Available everywhere February 22, 2019, on Big Machine.
The record opens with the song “x ANA x” a clever way to discuss the prescription anxiety medication that may or may not be overly prescribed in the modern world. It’s not just a great way to open a record, it’s a prime example of how Badflower is pushing to boundaries of standard song structure. “Ana you saved my soul. Can you let me have my heart for a minute.” It’s hard to tell if that lyric is about a girl or a drug. Which I’m sure is the intent. “The Jester” is a song with some history as they have been playing it live for a time. It translates better on record. There is some real depth and emotion to the music that really pops coming through a stereo.
The debut single “Ghost” feels like it’s existed longer than the band as it’s been killing modern rock radio but its dominance on rock stations is a testament to just how good of a song it is. A cry for help from someone contemplating suicide. Someone who has attempted and failed. As good of a song this is, even more important is that I have no doubt it has been a life raft for someone out there. And if you were looking for a pick me up you won’t find it in “Daddy”. An all too real portrayal of a pedophilic father sexually abusing his daughter. You feel dirty enjoying this song. The topic is so greasy but also so convincing you start to question why you are enjoying this song. Josh sings it in a way that almost makes you feel it happened to you.
The tempo picks up a bit on “Die”, an anti-Trump anthem. Catchy. It should be a crowd pleaser for at least the next two years. “Girlfriend” is a modern rock ode to internet porn. Like much of Badflower‘s music it’s more a tale of caution than it is a celebration… told in the first person. Predictably the record ends with a brooding epic track. Not a bad thing. It makes sense. Reaching the records coda “Cry”, you feel a sense of completion. OK, I’m Sick is Badflower announcing to the world they are more than a 6 song band. They are the real deal even if they are younger than the kid who mows your lawn. OK, they aren’t that young. That said the Grammy’s can have Greta Van Fleet. I’m good with Badflower.
The old man in me has to resist the urge to label this record a lyrical after school special. The truth is all great moments and bands in rock happen when an artist is able to tap into that unspoken language of youth. The innate ability to put music and lyric to what the young people of today are currently feeling. In much the same way that the Mike Judge movie Office Space flawlessly portrayed the slacker attitude of Gen-Xer’s at work or how Blink 182 wrote peremptory anthems that harnessed the snark of the first generation of latch-key kids, Badflower’s music and lyrics seem to eloquate the thoughts and concerns of a generation of kids raised on ADHD medication. When I listen to the lyrics I can hear the emotions I saw in my teenage daughter. I have no doubt that if I were a younger man, I would have a connection to this band bigger than the music. As it is, I can enjoy them for the great music and fresh melodic approach to songwriting. And for any of you out there wondering where the next great rock band is, I importune you to check out this record and this band.