Bad Planning - Barrington's Biggest Mistakes (Cover Artwork)

Bad Planning

Barrington's Biggest Mistakes (2018)


 Bad Planning has long been my favorite project to come out of the Chicagoan suburbia’s thriving punk scene. Though the band has been releasing material since as early as 2014, I was first exposed to them through 2016’s Lifetime EP. Lifetime saw the band maturing from the oversaturation of Blink-182 worship plaguing their debut, as they prominently incorporated more influence from classic emotive pop-punk acts such as Jawbreaker and, the EP’s namesake, Lifetime. In addition, the band began to implement some tasteful breakdowns into their sound, which, in most cases, would be a turn off for me. To put it nicely, I haven’t quite taken to the easycore sound dominating contemporary mainstream pop punk, and judging by the responses I’ve observed to my descriptions of the band as such, I’m not alone on that. However, Bad Planning may be the one easycore band that does it right.

Barrington’s Biggest Mistakes may further prove this assessment as Bad Planning has doubled down on these elements, making more prominent usage of breakdowns and upping the production quality. There’s also a lot of stylistic diversity packed into these 13 minutes of music. Almost every track sees the band exploring a distinct sound within the overarching motif of melodically driven emo.

Barrington Biggest Mistakes opens with the band’s most toned down cut to date. “Memphis” opts to focus on aesthetic over substance. Comprised of nothing but an echoey guitar instrumental and a single line of vocals, this intro feels mostly unnecessary, aside from a subtle call-forward to “10:54”. Additionally, “Lifer”’s intro doesn't do much to play off of the atmosphere established by “Memphis,” which makes the cut feel somewhat out of place.

Regardless of the awkward disconnect from its predecessor, “Lifer” is an absolute barn burner. The band flawlessly pulls off a later-era Alkaline Trio aesthetic, especially when juxtaposed against the lofty momentum of singles like “She Lied to the FBI”. “Lifer”’s soaring vocal melody was a bit jarring on first listen, but it’s also catchy as hell. It’s is incredibly refined compositionally, and performed with a compelling intimacy.

Midwest Classic is the most conventional modern pop-punk cut on the EP, and the least distinct of the mid-card, but it provides a necessary burst of energy to the tracklist. The majority of the song is accompanied by a smooth hammer-on guitar lead which keeps things interesting without taking the spotlight and becoming obnoxious or unnecessary.

The real high point of the EP is a toss-up between “Lifer” and the second to last song, “10:54”. “10:54” starts with a more standard emo revival build, reminiscent of bands like Into It. Over It. and Mineral, but builds into something more uniquely Bad Planning over time, culminating in a giant reprisal of “Memphis”’s “not who I wanna be” refrain.

“My Civic is Worth Less Than Brian’s Drumset” is the most unconventional track on Barrington’s Biggest Mistakes, taking a page from the fringe corner of emotive hardcore that includes bands like Kid Dynamite and Shook Ones. It’s a bit of an odd note to go out on, but it leaves the door open to some interesting developments that I’m excited to see Bad Planning explore on subsequent releases.