Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kids Raising Kids, by The Kopecky Family Band (Album of the Week)

Let’s just change the name of this band to KFB.  Growing up in the Midwest, I was exposed to the concept of “family bands”, which, in my mind, at least, are hokey groups playing jugs, washboards, and wash-tub bass, and closing their show on a swelling bit of patriotic tripe.  Given the Eastern European name of this particular example, I half expected a banjo number mentioning Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

KFB is not that kind of family band, thank God.  They’re not even a biological family – just friends who feel connected, but don’t suffer from the need to give a spot on stage to Grandpa or their precocious niece. 

KFB’s new album “Kids Raising Kids” presents diverse pop sounds, mostly well-written, and all well-produced.  6 members make up KFB, and the album presents a wide range of instruments, vocals and song types.  You won’t get bored on this album – each song sounds like it belongs with the others, but they’re different enough to keep you looking forward. 

Better yet, they were listed as one of the Top 25 Live Acts by Paste Magazine in 2011, and they will be in town on Wednesday evening at the Riot Room for $12.  Who can argue with that for a get-off-your-ass and support live music deal? 

It makes sense that this group would be a fun live show.  Their strength is their music.  On “She is the One” they produce a disturbing guitar riff and a touch of feed-back to remind you a bit of Jack White’s brilliantly insane “Black Cat Licorice”.  But the same album has space for soft and winsome numbers like “Waves” and “Change”, the latter of which could have fit right into a Swell Season concert.  “The Glow” has a thumping heart-beat that will remind you a bit of the Proclaimers on their 500 mile journey.

They are great musicians making great, catchy music, but I’m less impressed with their lyrics.  A great example is the second song on the album, “Heartbeat”.  It’s catchy as hell, starting out with snapping fingers, incorporating hand-claps and some great guitar work.  But the lyrics start out:
And I don't know know, I don't know what I can do for you
You make my heart beat beat a beat, like a drum for you
Everyday it's closer
Don't take it back, no no sir
I'll play my favorite part for you-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooh
I'm in a strange position
Come on and join were i am at
I'll keep the door wide open for you-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooh
The lyrics don’t improve much after that, either.  But the music kicks ass, and, really, if  you want deep, evocative inspirational writing,  why are you  expecting it to be supplied by 20- or 30-something people who have obviously spent most of their time learning how to make sounds with musical instruments? 

And, there’s always the tiny chance that I might be a bit harsh.  Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin offers the unconvincing claim that “There is emotional stuff within lyrics that you can delve into”, but, like me, she mostly likes the music.  She also reveals that her agenda was to get me enthusiastic for the concert, and she succeeded.

Next Up: Songs of Innocence, by U2

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Diploid Love, by Brody Dalle (Album of the Week

I picked this one on a whim - I saw a brief review at Rolling Stone that described her as "The passionate, raspy-voiced punk Brody Dalle", and that was all I really needed. Though they've led me astray a few times (Jason Mraz, for example), my gut instincts led me to a gem this time. Brody Dalle's music is catchy, energetic, and kick-ass. It has attitude and bass. It's edgy but not off-putting.

I don't particularly like comparing artists, as it diminishes the creativity of the subject and boxes the object, but I'll go ahead and say that Brody Dalle snarls like Joan Jett but crafts like Pat Benatar, then cranks it all up to 11. If you want some free samples, go to her website and click on some of the videos at the bottom, but if you like well-made rock, just go ahead and buy the album.
It's really hard for me to pick a favorite on this album, or to single out one as better left on the cutting room floor.  All the songs fit well in the mix, and they're solid on their own.  The album starts off with swagger:  
I'm gonna cut the chord to the man who holds me down under himI'm gonna cut the chord to the man, set me free, rule my world again.
I'm gonna burn this city down‘Cause this city ran me aroundI'm gonna burn this town to the ground
You might want to grab some marshmallows, cause there's gonna be a conflagration when she unleashes the guitars.

The wall-of-sound guitar work dominates all the songs save "I Don't Need Your Love", a drum and string gem broken up with laughing baby sounds that a parent will recognize as bath time.  It's a high-pitched, soft anomaly that voices her independence from the father of her child.  She's over the hurt and the child that resulted gives her strength:
That empty space you left has grown roses
Out of shit and one thing's for sure
I don't need your love
Another notable song is the inspirational "Dressed in Dreams", packed full of ringing guitars and percussion, coupled with determined lyrics:
Never let yourself give in
When you're trying to start again
Put on your dreams and let's go
I won't give up at all
I want the freedom to dream the impossible
I will make it real
And if you doubt her at all, listen to that burst of guitar at the end of the closing track, "Parties for Prostitutes".  Brody Dalle is the real deal.

Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin appreciates the "girl rocks hard" aspect of the album, but doesn't like it as much when the energy level slackens a bit.  We both like the album, I just like it a bit more.

Next up, Kids Raising Kids, by The Kopecky Family Band