If absence really does make the heart grow fonder, then the interim between each Bad Rabbits release must have it pining and yearning like a lovesick teen. The last decade of sporadic material has established them as a truly killer find, embodying a potted thought experiment of ‘what if Luther Vandross came up around New England punk and hardcore?’, while also being pleasantly game to test it. Let’s not forget 2016’s American Nightmare, after all, in which their desire to make a straight-up post-hardcore album overrode all previous funk impulses, and actually turned out rather competently (albeit largely ignored). Granted, the fusion has always been where Bad Rabbits have shone brightest. It’s why 2013’s American Love remains their crowning achievement to date, playing out as a straight-up funk and R&B album, but embodied with the chugging engine that’s wouldn’t be out of place at all in punk. At the cross-section between Deftones, glassjaw and Prince, it’s little wonder that Bad Rabbits have been lavished with praise from all three in the past.
Obviously a pedigree of celebrators of that calibre doesn’t go amiss; if anything, it just adds to the intense hype around what Bad Rabbits will bring next. Garden Of Eden is their first full release since Mimi in 2018, itself only a mini-album if you want to fully emphasise how much this band have leaned into the trickling-out model of getting out material. Clearly the stirring is working though, as when the title track kicks off with its squealing synth and abundance of flashy, fresh guitars and bass, we’re back in Bad Rabbits’ gloriously familiar territory.
It’s the off-the-charts entertainment value that’s most blatant, and that moulds Garden Of Eden into the hybrid if styles and aesthetics that it is. In musical shape, it frequently resembles a muggy, hothouse funk style, though held together by the clinical production akin to far more modern rock. But as demonstrated and extolled by the album’s pair of guests—Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds and Polyphia’s Tim Henson—that doesn’t have to mean locked-in restrictions. There’s still ample flavour to be found, in the pulsing, gyrating bubbles of bass on Beatdown and Let Me Rock, or the compressed pop-rock ear-candy of Goin’ Up, or the heavier, more prominent percussion that takes more than a few glances at Afrobeat on Unconditional. Intermingling within it all are the refracting beams of light and colour that Bad Rabbits so routinely capture, bouncing around and therefore illuminating what they’ve got so much more.
And yes, there is indeed a style-over-substance element here, but when that’s always brought the best out of Bad Rabbits, it’s a mere observation rather than a criticism. That sort of thing can be done well; pejorative connotations aren’t a be-all-end-all consequence. So on an album where maximalist opulence decks out a flooring management of groove and silk-strewn bluster, it’s no wonder why Garden Of Eden remains so consistently enticing. There’s self-assured glamour in its very genes, brought forth by shuddering, glistening pomp on the likes of The Getaway or Good Love, or even the title track where its blaring calamitousness could be an early death knell in the wrong hands. Those hands are not Bad Rabbits’ though, between an unshakable confidence and Fredua Boakye as a truly elite fronting presence who’ll belt out every line as though it were the most earth-shaking sentiment ever put to record.
It’s the win-more button whose ease of access and reliability to deliver is frequently abused across Garden Of Eden, albeit with little reason to complain. On an album designed to celebrate its own excess, why would you? It simply expedites the process and fuels Bad Rabbits’ track record of brisk but enjoyably packed listens. There’s really not a moment of noteworthy sag here, given that the over-abundance of personality makes it so easy to pull things back on track should any such situations arise. In Boakye’s multitude of big, golden-throated love songs—tiptoeing across just the right lines of sensual or sexual—or even broader expressions of life and humanity, his is the sort of monolithic, magnetic presence that’s hard to even chip away at, let alone beat.
Above all else, it’s just a lot of fun that a band like this not only exists, but keeps finding new ways to refresh and reinvigorate just how engaging they are. Even if the canon of Bad Rabbits will deem American Love to still be an unbeatable touchstone, even after this album, they’re regularly hitting slews of highs through sheer force of will and charisma. Garden Of Eden continues that trend with the staple effortlessness that Bad Rabbits’ catalogue has always bore, alongside the wealths of accessibility and crossover potential that should’ve seen them go supernova by now. Still, it’s never too late for that to start, and until the next one, Garden Of Eden is the ideal launchpad for that.
For fans of: Polyphia, Don Broco, Prince
‘Garden Of Eden’ by Bad Rabbits is released on 20th October.
Words by Luke Nuttall