When formulating ideas for new music, BRONCHO bandleader Ryan Lindsey could not help but focus on the bad things. While spending a lot of time watching CNN, he says, “…man, there’s a lot of bad behavior out there. Not to mention, there’s a company making money off of people watching their depiction of it all.” Shortly after this, the Tulsa-based five piece examined scandalous topics and how they relate to themselves, and perhaps how they affect the world around them.
Drugs, sex, overindulgence, and other vices: one could argue that this is the perfect framework for BRONCHO’s most broad and murky release to date. Instead, thanks in part to a recording process allowing them to work at their own pace, we are offered a well-constructed, uncomplicated record of pop tracks. Bad Behavior is BRONCHO at all of their bests, combining intelligent and swift songwriting with broad, yet thoughtful musings on a sinful society.
Bad Behavior has a musical center, but what makes the the album so impressive is their ability to loop out into other sounds before returning to ground. “All Choked Up,” the album’s opener, relies entirely on the beat in both its vocal and instrumental cadence. The result is a faded, libidinous march reminiscent of Tobacco. It’s the perfect track to match with the album’s not-subtle artwork of red cherries and extended tongues.
The tracks that follow keep this confrontational theme with pulled back instrumentation, leaving plenty of room to ponder in the space. This doesn’t break until “Keep It in Line,” the most single-worthy song, playing with the delayed, peppy beat iconic through much of the beach pop of the past decade. Lyrically, this is some of their most impressive work to date, where Lindsey addresses “bad behavior” in himself, expressing a disappointment in his own actions. The lines are the most memorable of the album and serves as a sugary bridge into the album’s second half.
“Keep It in Line” is even more impressive when coupled with its following track, “Sandman.” Scaling it back, BRONCHO returns with the same walking beat as the album’s beginning, but this time with much more of a confident swagger. Fleshing itself out with hard-plucked guitar, this is a track with a mission: a return to pleasure, even if it comes at the cost of a return to the uncouth. “Sandman” leans harder on past classical pop influences than much of the rest of the album, and the less-is-more approach pays off with a real earworm.
Things get more scandalous in the second half, especially the debaucherous confession of “Family Values.” The songwriting of the last tracks take on a power pop strut a la the Cars, while digging deeper into lyrics of embracing material vice and desire. The closer, “Easy Way Out,” reprises a swagger-filled strut and doesn’t stray too far from its rhythm. Lyrically, it serves as a reminder that even if these themes are tough to come to terms with, you can always take the safe route of embracing the coarseness of society.
For an album to address vice with such a broad stroke, Lindsey states that Bad Behavior is meant to be a tabula rasa of degeneracy, merely reporting back to listeners at the current state on the carnal. “We’re assuming that everyone is coming from a certain set of values, but ultimately that’s impossible.” Without assumption of a moral compass, BRONCHO are free to approach subject matter with honesty and blunt language.
What makes Bad Behavior so notable in the context of BRONCHO’s discography is the simplicity of the songwriting while letting go of the leash on the subject matter. Focusing on this theme would be quite an easy tableau to run off the rails. Instead, BRONCHO bring to light the wanton while also setting up a sound framework to start a conversation on the vice that surrounds our day to day.