The Bad Doctors – “Burning City” (2014)

The Bad Doctors are an electro-wave trio from Philly whose self-described influences are “New Order and the Cure and whatever the fuck else we’re feeling.” This was one of the records I ordered from FDH a while back but hadn’t gotten to yet, and since it’s a rainy gray morning in Seattle it seems like the perfect time to spin some sort of dark retro new wave.

Vocally I’m struck almost immediately by the Ian Curtis-esque darkness of the sound, though Matt’s delivery is a bit more spoken than sung. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than “Departure (Letter by Letter)” and “Red Shift,” which easily could have been a Warsaw/Joy Division songs. The Cure influences aren’t hard to find either, most clearly on the musical progressions of “In the Time of Plague.” The instrumentation blends in an interesting way to my ears, with the guitar, bass, and drums playing a very clearly post-punk / rock style, but surrounded by new-wavish synths, which tend to be on the more sparse and deliberate side as opposed to the more richly textured electronic sounds we came to expect by the mid 1980s. Burning City feels like a blend of early 80s synthwave and post-punk, which fits together since those genres were more or less contemporaries, but it still feels fresh and new – I’m not used to these two well-defined sounds being merged so seamlessly without one of the two playing dominant role.

It’s not all dark, though. There are songs like “The School of Athens” that are flat out rock songs; certainly still with that 80s vibe, fast paced and upbeat (and with a dose of some interesting, almost video game-like synths, of course!), so there’s something here for everyone. Burning City is available in its entirety online HERE so you can check it out for free, or purchase it using the “name your price” feature. So go give it a listen, and if you like it kick the guys a few bucks and buy the download.