Bud Bronson & the Good Timers, the Denver rockers who have built their local-hero status on stadium-worthy pop-punk anthems for thirty-somethings putting off adulthood, have slammed head first into the bleak political landscape of 2018. It turns out that aging and awareness demand attention from even the staunchest champions of pleasure.
On the band's second LP, Between the Outfield and Outer Space, which dropped in October, lead singer, lyricist and guitarist Brian Beer almost seems remorseful that he and his band weren’t quicker to acknowledge the harsh realities of life.
Songs like “End of Our lives” (“Have you read the news? Does is it even make a difference all the little stupid things that I do?”) and “Brave New World Series” (“Even the playoffs won’t be worth watching, because we all lose no matter who wins”) are disguised as classic Bud Bronson jams, but they make it clear that while you can still rage to the music, it’s not just about partying and good times: Life can be downright sad.
“I wonder if I’m just older and therefore more aware of things that are wrong, or if it’s really that much more of a scary and dangerous and crueler and less compassionate place and time than it’s ever been during my time here on Earth," says Beer. "This is an album of struggling to find a way to feel better about the worsening of human existence.”
From the beginning, Beer and the rest of the Good Timers have carefully built up their mythological status as hedonists; in fact, it's right there in their name. But now they've decided to take a wrecking ball to their party-band label, using baseball and space metaphors to try to make sense of the grimness of life. To do so, they've ditched almost all references to beer, minus the lead singer's name.
"That’s a very specific avoidance. This album is heavy by our standards, lyrically and even musically," Beer says. "Fantasy Machine [from 2015] was about youthful indulgence, endless youthful indulgence, and chugging beers as a way to avoid the reality of growing up, and now we're acknowledging that that was a forced foray into juvenile indulgence.
"It might have seemed celebrated at the time of the first album," he adds. "But it’s not a real tenable mode of dealing with reality going forward."
To Good Timers fans with memories of nights of debauchery scored by the band's wild performances, all of this could come as a shock. But Beer and his bandmates say that even their earlier songs nodded toward the inevitability of surrendering to adulthood and real life, and when listeners ignored those nods, they classified the band incorrectly as party rock. From the beginning, says Beer, the group has been aware that to truly romanticize the past would end in futility.
"I think we wanted to get away from the party-band moniker on this album, because we thought that a lot of the references to beer and all that stuff was taken at face value," he says. "We thought that there was a depth that was overlooked, and we wanted to make that a little clearer on this album."
Demanding to be taken seriously doesn’t always work, but the Good Timers aren't even doing that. They just want everyone to understand that they have an appropriate fear of, and respect for, how bad things can get in life — through death, destruction and the mistreatment of others.
"I think there were three influences [that] the songs came from: one was the seemingly worsening state of the world; the second was us bristling at always being referred to as a party band; and the third was all of us getting older and being unable to cling to willful youthful ignorance that we championed — knowingly championed — on Fantasy Machine."
The new album's baseball and space metaphors don’t distract from the way that music wrestling with maturation, aging and death reflects the people who made it. These aren't gimmicky songs, nor are they exercises in full-throttle escapism. Rather, the lyrics offer a critique of the world. Even with wailing guitars and choruses that practically beg for a return to angst and sophomoric behavior, the band deserves to be taken at its word: Bud Bronson doesn’t want to be the life of the party anymore.
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Sonically, Between the Outfield and Outer Space still sounds very much like older Bud Bronson & the Good Timers' music, but the lingering somberness underscoring the band's latest effort is difficult to ignore and doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. And as Beer tells it, future efforts are only going to be more thoughtful.
"We put a ton of time into this record, and thinking about the process still seems daunting, even though it’s done," Beer says. "But this has to be the standard going forward, and the next album we make has to be more nuanced and thought out and challenging and even better than this one."