Bad Luck.’s story is indicative of just how tenacious and tight-knit the DIY pop-punk and indie-punk scene can be. What could’ve fizzled out after two pretty well-received albums in 2015 and 2016 thanks to the weight of growing industry interest remained barely afloat, and Drug Phase stands as a testament to the belief to succeed. It’s a rather heartwarming story; at a time when bands can fold so easily, the drive is clear to see, and even if the band has been reduced back to the core two-piece of brothers Dominick and Joe Fox and filled in elsewhere by a revolving-door cast, the fact that they’re continuing to progress, both off their own volition and buoyed by the dedication of their fans, is a good thing to see. Thus, Drug Phase already feels imbued with plenty of good will, and given the calibre of hooks and melodies that Bad Luck. became known for, there are definitely high hopes that this can be something great.
And to be fair, even if it isn’t quite there just yet, Drug Phase is indicative of the sort of hugely strong next step that could easily see Bad Luck. shoot for the stars in no time. As far as execution goes, it’s reminiscent of the EPs that bands like McCafferty or Heart Attack Man have released to prelude albums proper, namely an ever-tantalising taste of a sound that really could shape up into something special, and the sort of short, accessible shot that should rightly get more than a few heads turning in Bad Luck.’s direction.
That said, the handful of quibbles that can be made about Drug Phase, while not horrendously prevalent, are enough to prevent it from really crossing over, and that primarily circles around to the production. It’s easy to see where Bad Luck. are pulling from current indie-punk given the thinness of a track like Impressive Depressive, but it’s not something that benefits their brand of emo and pop-punk that relies on throwback tones as heavily as anything, and as such it’s easy to come across a disconnect that can feel a bit awkward. Particularly on P.S. Wiffle Ball, a closer that already feels like little more than a coda in its sub-two-minute runtime, its acoustic tones have a sharpness that makes it feel more twee than it really should, particularly next to everything else here. And really, that’s only a complaint because of just how rock-solid everything else is. It’s far from game-changing, but the shaggy pop-punk rollick of Mean Dudes and Wish We Still Talked have a lot of character and drive, and Sheep Song actually finds a way to benefit from the less-than-favourable production in its snappier pop-rock pivots. Alongside a vocal performance from Dominick Fox that does a great job at channelling Adam Lazzara’s infectious looseness and elasticity, Bad Luck. find themselves holding down a solid foundation as far as immediate, catchy emo goes.
To many, that would be enough, but it’s to Bad Luck.’s credit that Drug Phase feels a lot more fleshed out again in its lyrical content, examining various stages of life and the trials and turmoil that come along with them. That turmoil is something that Fox captures exceptionally effective as well, sliding through tones and personas that can flit between sheepish dejection on Mean Dudes to bracing, vibrant catharsis on the title track, and an almost palpable sense of desperation on Sheep Song with relative ease. Perhaps it doesn’t hit its mark quite as hard as some other works in the same vein (though that might be the shorter EP confines that offer more of an explanation for that), but there’s an expressiveness that’s hugely potent here, and if nothing else, it’s what puts Bad Luck. on considerably strong footing.
And ultimately, that will prove to be a strength they can use to their advantage in the future. Drug Phase mightn’t wow on its own given that it can feel a bit too slight at times, but what it heralds for Bad Luck. is an extremely exciting prospect, throwing back to the mid-2000s with a verve and colour that’s rarely been seen lately. Of course, that’ll all determine on whether or not they can keep it up, but given the strength of the evidence here, it’s looking more likely than not.
For fans of: Taking Back Sunday, Have Mercy, A Will Away
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Drug Phase’ by Bad Luck. is out now on Take This To Heart Records.