Ask the members of Bad Moves how the band started and they’ll modestly kick aside the question with a simple reply: “Just some friends starting a band, you know?” It might be a simple origin story, but their debut LP tells far more complex ones: On Tell No One, guitarist/vocalist David Combs, bassist/ vocalist Emma Cleveland, guitarist/vocalist Katie Park, and drummer/vocalist Daoud Tyler-Ameen demonstrate musicianship and honest dedication.
“We named the album Tell No One because its clearest through-line, lyrically, is the feeling of carrying a secret with you,” the band tells City Paper. “The songs are meant to collectively tell a story about how self-discovery works when you’re a kid—perhaps too young to truly understand your own feelings or read the world around you, most certainly too young to feel safe talking about your inner life openly—and how those experiences, lessons, absences, revelations, and regrets ripple into your adult life.”
The band tracked Tell No One over 10 days at the Headroom recording studio in Philadelphia with producer Joe Reinhart (of revered Philly indie outfit Hop Along). This record opens strong with “Change Your Mind,” a total jam with a powerful bass line and loud gradual guitar feedback that leaves just enough room for vocals. The song sets the tone for what’s to follow on the album’s next 11 songs: An even louder choir of vocals that the band says are “a call to action for the listener to look past the ghosts that may haunt them and remember that we are all people with the agency to make changes in our lives.”
Throughout the album, Bad Moves hones in on a distinct power-pop sound—spread in shimmering guitar riffs and thundering drum beats anchored by lyrics that, even when heated, manage to sound hopeful. The band draws from some ’70s and ’80s influences, like The Nerves, The Replacements, and The Cars, along with more contemporary rockers, like Ex Hex or Sheer Mag. But their sound is totally their own: fresh without turning tacky, and poppy without the perils of glamour.
There isn’t a dull moment on the album; no reliance on unnecessary drones or meaningless ballads for the sake of filling up space. Instead, Tell No One comes out effortless and fun, swinging seamlessly between songs and delivering punchy gems like the dancy “One Thing” and the heavier—but still catchy—“Cool Generator,” the latter of which lends itself to mellow headbanging while dealing with the politics of, as the band puts it, “how queer people and people of color are the most likely to have their culture and fashion mined by capitalism, while simultaneously being put under the most risk.” In this way, the album follows a great, yet simple, punk formula: meaningful, but quick.
Bad Moves plays a record release show tonight at Black Cat with The Obsessives and Ultra Beauty. $10. 7:30 p.m.