[Album Review] Greg Smith and the Bad Dreamers- Dreamers
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by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: April 14th, 2014
Label: Independent

Right from the start ‘Dreamers’ makes you feel at home. The way Greg Smith delivers the opening line to “Loyalist Parkway” with a quaver and that distinctive rolling of his r’s leaves no doubt that he is a Canadian singer and this is Canadian music. He and his band, the Bad Dreamers, breeze through a set of solid songs that are as comfortingly familiar as a backyard barbeque complete with some Molsons and a few of your hoser friends. This latest project by the Weakerthans’ bass player is a collection of folk rock numbers which are charming and fun, if somewhat undemanding.

Smith takes this opportunity away from his Weakerthans buddies to explore a little bit, style-wise. There is a consistent enough overall feel to the album, but the Bad Dreamers go from sounding like the Barenaked Ladies (“The Sunshine”) to Steely Dan (“The Key Is Into The Door”) to the Band (“The Life”). And therein lies the problem that prevents this good record from being a great one – the Bad Dreamers have not had a chance to develop a sound of their own and therefore come off as pale imitators of other.

One could well argue that this is a mere side-project (there is no indication that Smith is leaving the Weakerthans) and so it is fair game for him to casually venture into other musical corners, with the help of an able back-up band. In that case, you could say that we should be satisfied with what this album is — i.e. a serving of Canadian-style pop rock songs that are entertaining but not memorable — and not what it could be. On the other hand, consider the song “Gold”. It has a distinctive sound that doesn’t lend itself to easy comparisons to any other artist. With its pleasing rolling rhythm and an interjection of fuzzed out guitar and distorted vocals, it’s the album’s standout. The execution is so tight here that you forget there are four individuals – it is just one unified sound. It’s the kind of song that could make you say, “Hey, isn’t that the Bad Dreamers?”