I must admit that I am not very familiar with a lot of Australian music, but here’s an analogy for your ears – – imagine Kylie Minogue‘s bummed out nephew getting into an argument with the guys from Radiohead, at a bar, after hours.
The newest release from down under’s KID LAB RAT jumps Radiohead-long into the sonic fray with a swirly mix of alt-rock guitars and (mostly) downtempo hip-hop adjacent grooves. Unfortunately, the forward momentum of most of the tracks here gets hamstrung by the kid’s narrow vocal range.
Watch video for "My Blackened Heart" on YouTube below:
At it’s weakest points, the album sounds like a mashup of tedious guitar rock and monotonous trip-hop. At it’s best, though, it’s a mix that’s darker than mumblecore and more lyrically challenging than dreamcore.
Opening track ‘Roses’ is a bit snoozy-woozy, and the Kid’s vocal limitations feel like a dealbreaker—but things pick up and we spend the middle third of the trip in a place that feels like Smashing Pumpkins Land.
Personally, I would have sequenced the album differently—it’s a little risky to have a second track called ‘Same Old Songs’ on an album where so any songs sound...the same. Even the single release, “My Blackened Heart,” is just sort of anonymously sludgy.
Then first highlight of the album is the third track—“Let You Down.” Helped by a lovely guitar riff, this one ebbs and flows nicely, and unlike some trance tracks, doesn’t overstay its welcome.
“Holding On,” though still mopey, is brightened by the guest vocals of Indiginous singer Emily Wurramara, while on “Apologetic,” later in the album, the mope factor is offset by a cool shimmering guitar sound.
The final third of the collection really offsets the nondescript start. “Just Like You Said” is propelled by a creepy/awesome piano ear worm, and here, the guest vocals take the song to another level.
My fave on the album might be “Behind Enemy Lines,” which has an opening guitar riff that’s quite a bit harder-edged than the rest of the songs here, and features an almost metal sounding vocal refrain. With that “loud-quiet-loud” thing that everybody’s done since Nirvana, this cut builds and actually goes somewhere special.
Sure, “More Sad Songs” had me occasionally yelling, “Just get out of the basement and go outside for a couple hours, I think Kid Lab Rat, once he tinkers with his formulas, will be worth following.
3 stars. It could be 2 1/2 except the stand out tracks are so solid.