Emily Doran is a hard rocking, glam infused punk rocker who enters every live show like she’s going to drop-kick a disco ball and stomp holes through the stage with her leather boots. At least that’s the way fans who have seen performances by her band — The Gala — describe her. Fittingly, that’s also just the kind of energy the Gala’s debut album Bad News carries from start to finish.
An amalgamation of inspiration from everyone from Blondie, to Alanis Morissette, to the B52’s and the larger 80s new wave movement as a whole, Bad News comes atop an ever growing wave of enthusiasm for a band that exploded onto the Boston scene in late 2016. Shredding clubs there, and, more locally, in Lowell, The Gala built a fan base while biding their time to perfect a rock solid debut rather than rushing one to streaming services. The result was this record, featuring a dozen tracks and released March 1st.
In line with their thunderous entry to the local music landscape, this album wastes no time in getting down to business. The lead song “Oh Abby” opens with a brutalist snare pattern on the drums and a driving chord progression on guitar. Just as quickly, in jumps the nostalgic but ever energetic playing of organist Rebecca Frank, and, of course, Doran’s energetic vocals.
From there, it’s not long before “Blood Orange”, the third track on the album, plays with all those same musical elements but opts to bring the organ to the forefront. That song seems to effectively find the line between appearing unique on a jam packed album while not seeming jarring. The mournful yet staccato organ helps cement that while the mumbling muted guitar strums and blunt lyrics construct a compelling image of a narrator on the edge of insanity.
Skipping ahead two more songs, we arrive at “Boy”, the effective lead single for the album. “Boy” comes with a glam rock style music video released on YouTube and showcases, perhaps better than any other song on the album, the sturdy work of bassist Justin Perillist. His is the first instrument the band plays on that song and establishes a wildly catchy groove that lingers throughout the track. Even as “Boy” is catchy, it’s hardly smooth or gentile with acrobatic swings in Doran’s vocal pitch reinforcing a, by this point, prevailing feeling of chaos and frustration introduced on “Blood Orange”, but confronted head on here.
As things wind down, we arrive at “XX”, the eighth song on the album and perhaps the slowest of them all. This feels like an anthem for those in downward spirals, building instrumentally and lyrically into a sonic wall behind Doran’s screamed, growled, and moaned refrain — “Get your tickets, I’m feeling wicked.” With that lyric in particular, it’s almost as if, at this point in the album Doran is singing directly to her audience about the very performative chaos that helped her band secure their record deal in the first place. She breaks the fourth wall, expressing a moment of self-awareness within a character that, for much of the rest of the album is angry, or frustrated, or otherwise in pain.
From that point, Doran and her entire band behind her put a fantastic rock and roll bow on their album with the record’s final track, “The Spins”. The guitar and drums come to an absolute climax on this song, threatening to jump out of the punk genre and into the angrier metal music world. Simultaneously though, Doran seems to also conclude a story of destructive back and forth love affairs with a middle finger sort of realization “We is not in my lexicon.” In a sense, that offers a jarring but fitting peace at the end of an otherwise emotionally violent record.
All and all, Bad News is a lot of things. Its rock and roll, glam, punk, new wave and even has elements of surf rock. It’s angry and witty, mature and immature. It’s an ear crunching statement by an irreverent Emily Doran that she and her band are here to stay. But it’s also a lie. Because for music fans, an album like this is nothing but great news.
Key track: “Boy”