Monday, 1 February 2010

Kids Picked Last ALBUM


Reviewer: MMT

First of all, how exciting is it to be able to queue up in HMV and buy an album by one of your favourite local bands? “Yes, young man. I’ll take the Ladyhawke and Animal Collective albums from your “2 for £10” deal. And the slightly disappointing latest Muse album for a reasonable enough £5 too please. Oh, and while I’m here, I do believe I’ll pick up the new release by fantastic MK synth-rock combo Kids Picked Last, if you’d be so kind…” Sweet!

Monkey Kettle-watchers will be more than familiar with KPL by now – not only did they play at both the MonKeyVision Song Contest and the Monkey Kettle Stage @ The Waterside last year, but their anthem “Never Leave Me” also graces the wonderful “Monkey Kettle & Friends Vol. 2” compilation which has recently come among the world.

At their age though, twelve months is a looong time for a band, and while “Never Leave Me” and the accompanying “Death On The Trance Floor” EP were a chirpy punk-pop treat, this is an altogether harder-edged collection. Technically I suppose you’d call it a ‘mini-album’ – its eight tracks last a mere 23 (and a half!) minutes – but it’s long enough to see a definite progression has taken place.

Overall, the synths which seem to sometimes split opinion (but that're one of the major selling points for me!) are more integrated than on previous recordings – they’re part of the whole aural cake rather than being the generous top layer of sugary icing, if you’ll allow me the metaphor… And the rest of the sound is heavier, harder, more muscular. The Kids have beefed up! For the first time it’s obvious how good the choppy metal guitars are too. I’m pretty sure this maturing of their sound’ll give them wider appeal – as their impressive gig schedule for 2010 so far would seem to bear out!

Since the last EP there has also been a line-up change, seeing Toby step out from behind the drums and join Joel (“guitar & screams”) at the front, resulting in a new Linkin Park-style dual vocal scenario, one ‘soft’, one ‘hard’ as it were. This allows KPL 2.0 to be both intense and melodic at the same time, a neat trick if you can pull it off – such as on the chugging “Kite Flying” where one vocal is Auto-Tuned pop stylee and the other vocal seems to be gargled through a broken sink full of rusty water. Not to mention the exuberant crowd-chanting too – I bet that one is a killer live!

But despite the screaming and shouting, there are still pop sensibilities in the mix too. My favourite moments are still the ones where Ashley’s synth programming is to the fore: the short instrumentals Intro”, “Rumours (reprise)” and especially the euphoric Luced help break up – or regulate at least – the intensity. The confident (and brilliantly-titled) Fat People Are Harder To Kidnap stands out: the chunky thud of the bass & geetars complemented well by the ravey electronics and the genuinely constructed tune. To Infinity And Beyond is good too – as close as they get to an epic ballad. And Pirateze is probably my favourite track, the lyrics finally intriguing, the vocals cracking with emotion and the synths (again) colouring everything fabulously sour. There’s a great bit of weird guitar / keyboard meshing together in the middle section and outro too.

Kids Picked Last are still not the finished article, as I’m sure they would admit themselves. But with “Rumours” they’ve moved another big step closer (“One Step Closer”?) – and it’s great fun watching them evolve. Right now there’s a “blipcore” remix of “Kite Flying” on their MySpace which makes me grin like a goon. How many MK guitar bands would try something like that? Not many. Skillz.

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