I’ve never had Larrys as friends. I have no idea if most of them are good, and the only bad ones are in this band. And although I know what hodads are1, and I’m pretty damn old, I’ve never known any personally. So this album from The Bad Larrys, Hodads, is a whole lotta unknowns for me. But after roasting my ears on January goodies such as Agrimonia, I could use something a little mellower, and Hodads promises to be a feel-good, easy-going mishmash of stoner/punk/garage rock. So wax up your surfboard and try to stay on for the ride.
Hailing from Philadelphia, former City of Brotherly Love but now City of Nick Foles2, The Bad Larrys are in fact a young five-piece basking in the vibes of the 60s and 70s, and not the identically-named acoustic duo from Montana – a good thing, judging by YouTube. The band jumps right into the deep end of early 70s garage rock with album opener “Deep Space Radio,” a noisy, jangly number full of rattling guitars and peppy keys, all put in their place with the sneering vocals of Sean Flynn (hopefully no relation to Robb). It’s a good song, but we’ve heard it a hundred times in the last couple of years. Other light-hearted fare shows up in the form of “Fired in the Morning,” a similarly-paced song about showing up drunk at work, and “Bottom of the Bag,” a gloomy surf-rock piece which has a hilarious voice mail intro.
The oddest thing about Hodads is the second song, “Barrel Roll Pitted,” which is a short instrumental surf-rock number. It’s odd because it’s the second song, throws the album’s flow for a loop, and removes the band’s best feature: Flynn. While the band and the songs on the whole are average and unmemorable, Flynn sings through the numbers with a charisma that seems at odds with his age. He’s got the perfect voice for this style of music, and I find myself grinning often with not just his delivery, but his lyrics as well. These are some snappy words. A quick sample, from “I Like You Anyway,” which draws unabashedly from The Doors’ “Break On Through” and The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz:” “Let’s do it in the artroom, let’s do it on the roof. If you want a picture to remember me by let’s do it in a photo booth, let’s do it in a library long after they close, we’ll read some dirty 19th century prose.” The man’s got a knack for a good line, that’s for sure.
Flynn also has the looks, swagger, and vocal chops of the classic frontmen of days gone by. He’s got a certain mischievousness about him, like he’s just played a practical joke on you and he’s waiting for you to get it. Sadly, beyond Flynn there’s nothing really compelling about Hodads. The songs are all good and catchy, but immediately forgotten (aside from some of the earworm lyrics). The homage paid to the 60s surf-rock scene and the 70s garage-punk scene seems sincere but doesn’t make The Bad Larrys stand out from the crowd. And the retro production might be cute, sounding much like my old cassettes, but it all adds up to coming across more as a gimmick band than something serious. Which is too bad, because I sense a lot of talent under the retro facade.
They’re young, and need a bit more seasoning, but with a charismatic singer and sneaky-good lyrics, The Bad Larrys are already ahead of many other bands. Hodads is a fun, light album, but it fails to stand out from the retro crowd musically, making me wonder if there isn’t more to the album title than meets the eye. Still, the band shows promise and I see the potential here. Now they just need to write some better songs.