Living, Breathing Pleasure

The Bad Signs

Black Magic Moments

Number Nine Creative Cult, 2017

Review by Kent Manthie                                        Black Magic Moments cover

The first thing that I thought of just after the beginning of Black Magic Moments, the latest EP from The Bad Signs, was that it would make for a perfect soundtrack to a David Lynch movie. The opening song, “Blue Love” was even reminiscent of Julee Cruise’s hauntingly beautiful singing on Falling Into the Night an album of songs with lyrics written by David Lynch and music written by Angelo Badalamenti, who’s written the score for most of Lynch’s films.

I don’t think Black Magic Moments was necessarily meant to woo Lynch or his fans. The album stands out on its own. It’s just too bad that this is an EP and there are only five songs on it. But the 15 minutes of music on here are pure bliss. They even do a lovely rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, a song with which Elvis Presley had a modicum of success.

Hailing from Nashville, The Bad Signs is a trio, featuring Samantha Harlow on vocals and the brothers Rufus, Nat and Rob on guitars and drums, respectively.

The EP is a kind of tribute to Elvis. Besides the cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, the 12” vinyl version of the EP actually has a campy message on the Elvis tune which one can hear when spinning the disc in reverse. I’m not sure what the exact text of the message is, but it’s an invocation of some sort, the kind one can chant or play on this record and pretend to “conjure up spirits”…oooh. Creepy, huh? Maybe, but in a hip, southern gothic kind of way. The other Elvis-related mojo that comes with Black Magic Moments is that each copy of the 12” vinyl EP comes with a page from the Lost Diary of Elvis Presley. A marketing magnet for those with a hankering to read the thoughts and ideas of Elvis himself.

The music on Black Magic Moments (as well as any other music by The Bad Signs) is very easy to fall in love with. It just takes a few seconds and – wham, bam! – it hits you. The PR release I received with my copy expressed it as sounding somewhat like “…a little Nancy Sinatra, a little Nick Cave”. Well, the part about Nick Cave is certainly true, but as for Nancy Sinatra, uh…no, I stick by my initial impression that it resembled Julee Cruise a little. Samantha Harlow’s hauntingly beautiful voice has a particular feel; a sultry, yet melancholy nocturnal smoothness which still harbors subtle, yet audible emotional registers.

The album opens with “Blue Love”, the first song I’ve ever heard by The Bad Signs; it then goes on to the infectious, guitar-twang boppin’ “Love Lock”, which, once you start it playing, keeps you spellbound; the sexy rhythmic swagger takes you right along with it. After “Love Lock”, the bouncy tempo continues with “Hypno-Twist”, a great tune for your next Halloween party. After that, it slows down again and “Nine Lives” is a lovely showcase for the echoing reverb of Nat Rufus’s hollow-body electric gitar with the lovely sustain built into it. This is, of course, followed by “Can’t Help Falling In Love” with the opening line everyone’s familiar: “Wise men say/Only fools rush in…”; yeah, that one.

So, yes, it’s a short one, but every note on it is carefully constructed and put in to just the right places. The Bad Signs are definitely a band I’d like to see live. The music on Black Magic Moments has that certain appeal that one can just tell would work just great in the dark, smoky atmosphere of a small club. Check out their home page, to find out when they might be coming to your area. While there, you can also stay up-to-date on their current comings and goings.

It’s an exciting moment when one finds another unique indie band that bucks the commercial banality of pop drivel and puts their talent to use the way The Bad Signs do. Stay tuned… -KM.

The Bad Signs onstage photo

(Above:) Ned Rufus (l) and Samantha Harlow of The Bad Signs

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