Upon a first listen, it’s easy to write Kiss Kiss Fantastic off as just another “chillwave” group, but after listening to, The Red / Blue Shift E.P., available for free on bandcamp (see link below), they bring a new dimension to the already dated sounding “genre”. While it is scary to have to use so many quoted terms when describing a band, the correct terminology doesn’t exist yet due to how new Kiss Kiss Fantastic sounds. There is an 80s production element to their sound, but the songs sound like Phil Spector could have been involved in the writing process. They quality of the vocal melodies are one of Kiss Kiss Fantastic’s distinguishing factors. The band’s two vocalists sing almost folky melodies, which gives the songs a very comfortable quality. “Antisocial Butterflies” is mellow but also catchy. The song’s hook is memorable, but not like anything The Islander has ever heard before. “Violet” is a much bolder track, featuring harmonies and a more round production. The song is totally danceable but also relaxing, which is rare. Kiss Kiss Fantastic has something that The Islander can’t put his finger on. Whatever it is, it’s fantastic.
The Islander had a few preconceptions of what Dunes would be, considering the fact that one third of the band, Kate Hall, was in Mika Miko. Before hearing anything by the group, The Islander made the assumption that Dunes would be aggressive and noisy. In reality they are the opposite. They sound like an early 60s girl group whose music was produced and mixed in the 80’s. The track, “Handle”, layers Tranquil vocals over very a new romanticy 80’s sounding guitar and a very simple drum part. The harmonies in the song sound very Sleater Kinney inspired, and the washy production reminds the Islander a lot of the new Abe Vigoda material. At the end of the day, the song is very enjoyable and hopefully foreshadowing good things to come from Dunes.
Handle – Dunes
If one were to listen to Crush expecting Skeleton pt.2 he or she would be very confused. While traces of what Abe Vigoda once were are still apparent on this record, influences seem more akin to Manchester circa 78, than the tropics. It’s also a less squealy album that seem more clean. The most mind-blowing facet of this album is the consistency. From the first track to the last, nothing falls short of the standard that is set. Every element of the album coexists happily, which might seem like a weird notion to an older Abe Vigoda fan, but if one puts his or her prejudices aside and listens to this album with unbiased ears, there is a good chance it will rise to the their personal best of ’10 lists. The title track, “Crush”, is a good introduction to this new sound, displaying even cleaner vocals than Reviver and showing a new level of conciseness within a single track. This undoubtedly different stylistic direction seams to be fully realized across the album, and the first track, “Sequins” is a perfect example of this. The guitar intro is distinctly Abe Vigoda in it’s timbre and timing, but the vibe or the riff is much cleaner than previous works. The moment that took The Islander aback is when the synths come in. In short, they work perfectly. They add a sense of fullness to the song, and round out the instrumentation. “Pure Violence” is a bit washy, but the almost floating nature of the tune perfectly compliments the melody, and energy of the song. The vocals sound very new romantic, intertwined guitar parts make the backing track very thick. The most striking feature of this song is almost Psychedelic Fursy hook, which manages to be melancholy and bold at the same time.
The Islander’s two favorite tracks are “Beverly Slope” and “Dream of My Love (Chasing After You).” The former is song on the album that is the most different from anything the band has done before. The drum part is extremely interesting, and drives the song along. One guitar part adds an eerie atmospheric backdrop, and the other textures the song. The vocals are also very atmospheric, and it’s very easy to just zone out and get lost in the flowing energy of the track. When “Beverly Slope” dissolves into noise, it becomes apparent that no other ending would do the song justice. The latter song is extremely intense. The song starts with an almost helicopter like guitar riff, and immediately a simple synth part enters the mix. The two work together very well. The vocal melody sounds like early Roxy Music, and the harsher synth part is sounds Eno influenced. The vocals turn into a very Joy Division like part. The intensity builds and builds and then the song is over. The entire album is phenomenal, and amazingly, it translates into a live environment. The Islander absolutely recommends this album to anyone.
Crush – Abe Vigoda
My girlfriend came home with this record a couple years back (Nosferatu – Hugh Cornwell and Robert Williams) and i’ve been yammerin about it ever since. Spookysounds, quirky electronics and overall goofiness of this record make it perfect for your mid September Halloween pre parties. This whole project was an attempt to jump start Hugh Cornwell’s solo career just in case the stranglers broke up. Like most good things it failed to make the charts and the stranglers went on into the 80’s so this ended up getting buried and almost completely forgotten about . The best part of this record are the guest musicians who just pop up everywhere, Robert Williams (Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band) was Cornwell’s main collaborator on these songs but it also includes Ian Dury, Ian Underwood (Frank Zappa’s band) and on this track Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh with Mark taking the lead vocal and killin’ it. Its all very weird but essential to all the stranglers fans and devotee’s out there. Hoorah.