Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Which I Make My Obligatory Remarks Regarding The Black Kids And Proceed To Get On With My Life

The Black Kids
Wizard Of Ahhhs (Self-Released, 2007)
Grade: C+

Download: The Black Kids - "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You"
Download: The Black Kids - "Hurricane Jane"

And I, for one, welcome our new precocious indie-synthpop overlords.

So I'm a bit late to The Black Kids party. But when a band such as this has been so capital-H Hyped before even putting out a record proper, I think some space is a good thing. Distance, in addition to making the heart grow fonder, does wonders for clearing one's head free of influence.

The Black Kids, for those of who do not know, sound like what would happen if you put the best of 80s synthy mope-rock - The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, et al - and put them into a blender. The band formed in March of 2006, and shortly thereafter were opening for the likes of Tilly And The Wall and Elf Power. In August of this year, the Kids played at the Athens Popfest and the band's live show was rapturously received. Since then, there have been loads of hype piled on by the music blogosphere and webzines and, since the band's CMJ performance, anti-hype. Again, this is all before The Black Kids have signed a record deal or even put out a full-length.

Which bring us back to the actual music. Is it any good?

Here's the thing about The Black Kids: The blender approach which I mentioned earlier is what gives the band's material its immediate appeal, but it also serves as Wizard of Ahhhs's ultimate downfall. While The Black Kids write some fantastic choruses--bon chance on getting "Hurricane Jane" out of your head once you hear it--it's during the verses that The Black Kids's weaknesses are revealed. Namely, that their music--which consists, for the most part, of Robert Smith-like yelping vocals, New Order style synth-and-bass driven sound, and The Smith's miserable/tongue-in-cheek lyrics--is really derivative. Not helping are trite lyrics. "Hit The Heartbrakes"? Seriously? And, from a lyrical standpoint, the less said about "I've Underestimated My Charm (Again)" (oh, tee hee hee), the better.

But we shouldn't be too harsh about the band's songwriting. The Black Kids have a good command of dynamics, which are the foundation of any great song. Tracks like the aforementioned "Hurricane Jane" (which begins like a shuffling disco song) start off quiet and gradually build to their cathartic and effective climaxes. But getting there is a chore, because when you're listening to the music, in your head you're putting together a playlist of all elements of New Wave the Kids crib from.

Which is fine for a band that's starting out, which The Black Kids are most definitely. While there's a lot of potential here, there's much more on Wizard Of Ahhhs that reminds us all to keep Public Enemy's adage of "Don't Believe The Hype" close to heart.

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(Jonathan Graef)

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Anonymous Matt Bialer said...

I agree with you. I am a little surprised that there is so much buzz about them. I don't see much there yet to generate this kind of response. They're good fun but disposable.

3:55 PM  
Blogger April said...

I'm really glad you wrote this, Jon. It's really easy to get fed up with the state of music journalism, and a lot fo that has to do with this Pokeman mentality (thanks to Adam for that). So much of it is being the first to break something, adn everyone wants to be important, so writers pimp their discoveries so hard. And then it just snowballs. There's nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, even if it's a new, slightly different spade.

The problem is double in the Twin Cities, where everyone is afraid to say something bad about anyone else, which is a downside to the fact that we have a few major players who control most of the music media. Everyone's in everyone else's pockets.

7:49 PM  

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