Album Review: Culture Abuse – ‘Bay Dream’

If you’ve been on the lookout for that record full of casual, breezy summer tunes, Californian alternative five piece Culture Abuse have got you covered. They’re about to release their […]

If you’ve been on the lookout for that record full of casual, breezy summer tunes, Californian alternative five piece Culture Abuse have got you covered. They’re about to release their second full length record next month, to great anticipation after the release of Peach in 2016. Fortunately, for those waiting, this record is definitely something to get excited about. Bay Dream is 10 tracks’ worth of easy to listen to alternative songs laced with a little bit of punk and garage rock.

Culture Abuse have made quite the name for themselves over the past few years with their first record, Peach, released in 2016. Bay Dream feels like a stripped, toned-down version of some of the themes explored in their first release – which was pretty much an honest, straight up punk record. Bay Dream is a complete change in direction for Culture Abuse, and sees them embracing their softer sides in an album pumped full of positive messages and a general upbeat mood.

The two singles released from this record by the band so far, Bee Kind to the Bugs and Calm E, have both been stellar examples of light hearted alternative punk, with a positive message and instrumentals reminiscent of the classic grunge albums of the 90s (The intro to Calm E, in fact, could have been featured on a prime Soundgarden record and nobody would complain). The rest of Bay Dream is crafted in such a way that it lulls the listener into a hazy, nostalgic trance, not too dissimilar to the themes behind Turnover’s last two records, Good Nature and Peripheral Vision, while technically sounding much more like their first, Magnolia. Bay Dream, however, doesn’t tend to focus on the themes of loss, change and love as much as it does on the topic of becoming a better person and making the most of the world. Bay Dream features the crunchy, slightly heavier guitars that were present in some of Turnover’s earlier work, while embracing the punk and grunge themes explored by several notable garage rock artists who they may well soon be sharing the scene with – The Smith Street Band, Japandroids and DZ Deathrays to name a few. Sure, Bay Dream is a much tamer, relaxing journey through the veins of alternative music than these heavier artists, but Culture Abuse are just a stone’s throw from punk music here. Having adopted several different genres and applied them all to one release, it’s certainly very interesting to think about where Culture Abuse can go from here. Will they continue down the line of merging similar genres together or will they pick one path and stick to that? Either prospect sounds like it would suit their sound well.

One of the only negative points that can be discussed within Bay Dream is the fact that, at times, this record can sound quite similar and repetitive. Coming back to the Turnover comparison briefly, as they suffered from the same issue with Good Nature to an extent, there are only so many songs you can write in a summery, weightless tone before you might need to diversify and mix it up a little. This is by no means their downfall, it’s a great model to style your music around, but there’s definitely potential within Culture Abuse to throw maybe two or even three visibly different songwriting styles into a record and still make it work, contrasting with each song. Although Bay Dream still works gloriously as it is, it would perhaps just be a little nicer to hear a different sound from the Culture Abuse on this album from time to time. If Culture Abuse are willing to play around with multiple alternative subgenres in the way they have in Bay Dream, it could be fun to see certain influences coming through more than others on certain tracks to mix up the general mood of the record.

All in all, Bay Dream is a tremendous piece of work, with few flaws, from a band that have already made quite a name for themselves in the underground alternative scene. It’s come at a great time of year, too – once you pick this record up it’s very likely that it’ll play a staple part in your summer playlists. Bay Dream is an incredibly casual, relaxing, but overall fun record reminiscent of that childhood summer you wish you could relive.

Thomas McGlynn

About Thomas McGlynn