There is no real trend in music. You hear many people state that a brilliant debut must have an equally good follow up or better in order for the artist/group to continue surviving and maintaining their fan base. That's not really true, many exceptions can be listed to prove this. Another myth is that artists must constantly re-invent themselves so as to not seem repetitive. Though this doesn't seem so implausible, it also is not true. Well... No, Madchild and Prevail haven't gone from using decent vocabularies to solely rhyming in one syllable. But, as Madchild states in the introduction to "Take It Back" "We don't always have to talk about Dungeons and Dragons all the time." "We don't have to make things so complicated." This mentality mainly sticks to the funky 'Take It Back,' which though supposedly dumbed down, is definitely slick.
Prior to the release of 'Bad Dreams,' Swollen Members (after receiving a Juno Award for 'Balance') released firstly the ambiently sinister sounding 'Deep End.' The track is very well done from beginning to end. The beat flows smoothly with Madchild and Prevail riding it carefully. Madchild uses one of my favourite lines in a while; "Haven't found a way to say "Fuck you!" politely." Also, before hearing 'Bad Dreams' in full, we were provided with 'Camouflage' (the perfect Evidence produced, DJ Revolution scratched-up tension-build-up backdrop) and 'Fuel Injected.' A well-constructed track in which my boy, Moka Only shines on with his sung hook and sung verse.
There are a nice, though not excessive selection of guests on 'Bad Dreams.' Son Doobie, Buc Fifty, Dilated Peoples, Chali 2na and Planet Asia all drop at least a few bars within certain tracks. Babu (Dilated Peoples) and DJ Revolution scratch the shit out of quality samples to provide well-constructed hooks. Plus, the production is also certainly on point for the majority of the album. The Alchemist, Joey Chavez, Evidence and DJ Kemo (Rascalz) are amongst the producers featured here. Not to mention the somewhat permanent Swollen Members addition - Rob The Viking. Rob is responsible for (amongst others) 'The Reflection,' an instrumental interlude which slots in very nicely just over midway through the album.
I found myself surprisingly drawn to 'Snake Bite' featuring Rattlesnake Jones. The beat creates a somewhat laidback vibe. And the sorrowful singing and groaning provide a very clear mood. Madchild rhymes fairly simply, but very effectively. And as per usual Prevail comes off excellently. 'Ventilate' and 'High Road' are other stand out tracks. 'Ventilate' features Madchild and Prevail "arguing." They go back and forth insulting one another...pretty well too I might add. The hook grows on you, initially it is slightly annoying but it does improve with repeated listens.
On the whole, 'Bad Dreams' features high quality material. However, 'Anthrax Island' I really couldn't stand. Madchild drops some of my least favourable rhymes I've heard him spit and the manic beat I just wasn't feeling at all. Another joint which didn't quite rub me the right way was 'Pokerface.' Though the beat wasn't that bad, the hook and rhymes weren't anything exceptional.
'Bad Dreams' is an album that features a nice selection of dope tracks. Beautifully smooth, scratched-up hooks, perfect production and the well assembled duo which "Sound magnificent together" make 'Bad Dreams' a great follow up to 'Balance.'