REVIEW: WOOF. - Bad Connection

Kelly Kirwan

The '90s kids are all grown up, and nostalgia for the last pre-millennial decade has been at an all-time high. It makes sense that now, as we try and figure our shit out in our twenty-somethings, that we find comfort looking back to the simpler times of dial-up internet and online chatting via AIM, not Tinder. So, aside from the listicles jogging my memory of beanie babies and “Be Kind, Rewind tapes,” I also felt waves of decadal deja-vu listening to the latest LP from WOOF., Bad Connection

First, there’s “Buzz, your girlfriend” (from the cinematic classic Home Alone, which hopefully was a dead giveaway). Second, there’s the subtle similarities to bands like Of Montreal, The Strokes, and a little Beck, with those blasé vocals, a healthy dose of reverb, and a funky interplay of guitars and drums. Not to mention WOOF.’s accompanying gifs and posters, which are an array of pixelated throwbacks, and a nod to Nirvana’s iconic Nevermind cover, naturally. Also, Kelan Bonislawski, the New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist behind the project, cites a Radiohead concert as one of his more influential musical memories. But enough nostalgia! Onto the present.

The instrumental complexity of Bad Connection makes this one-man band all the more impressive. Of the album’s thirteen tracks, it was the (initially) down-tempo "Runaway Jane" that I found myself continually replaying. The song opens with Bonislawski’s lethargic vocals and elongated guitar strokes, “She’s never been afraid / Of a coming of age / Then in a winter haze / Her mind remains a child.” It’s a melancholy introduction, for sure, but one that draws you in, intent on discovering the lyrics and narrative they construct.

Then, in true WOOF. fashion, the track builds to a high-energy finish, with faster drums and more staccato strumming, giving its last minute a tense contrast to its beginning. I suppose the trajectory of "Runaway Jane" speaks to the characteristics of Bad Connection as a whole. It’s a genre-bending album that oscillates between lo-fi, alternative, garage rock, and even some psychedelia reminiscent of Tame Impala (check out the track "40hz" if that sparks your interest)—musical styles as versatile as Bonislawski’s instrumental repertoire.

Another album jam worth noting, in particular, is "Soybean / Barn Swallow." Yes, I know, an interesting title if there ever was one, but don’t let it fool you. It’s got that chugging bass and propulsive percussion line that are bound to get your blood pumping and body moving. It’s a track that falls more on the electronic, danceable side of the spectrum, or in the words of DrunkenWerewolf, one that grabs “electronica inspired indie-pop by the metaphorical balls and swing[s] it towards the ceiling of otherworldly goodness.” 

Released on Tree Machine Records, I have the distinct feeling that WOOF. is going to outlast the current fad of wistful, '90s-era homage. Kelan Bonislawski may be inspired by the past, but he’s still churning out music with his own signature twist. And as the sole writer and performer on every track, we see WOOF. is not one to rely on anyone but himself.