KiNDERGARTEN – Small
Self-released (2/10: available on iTunes)
Rock / Funk / Punk
So, apparently, KiNDERGARTEN are the “new” sound of New York, made up of equal parts Talking Heads, Television, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Lou Reed, with a touch of Prince.
Besides Bowie and Prince, I’m not so sure. The idea that this is the “new” sound of New York when there are bands such as Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend around is just nonsense.
If I were to write this band an ingredient list it would go as follows: Tay Zonday and his “Chocolate Rain”, Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, the standard distorted chug of a guitar swaggering through a pop song, the vocal yaps and yelps of Ziggy Stardust and the glammed-up, fabulously operatic tendencies of Queen.
The album slides around from the obvious-for-a-good-reason single material of “The Man on the Stairs”, with its B-movie synths and made-for-beat-matched-music-video verses to the Kool & The Gang-meets-Men, Women & Children funk-up of “E’s Ok, Ah’s Ok Too”. You can almost hear an echo of “Celebration” in one of the later tracks, “Computer Callin'”, whilst third track “Mountains & Hotels” has a strange, uncanny ability to summon the lingering last moments of the piano finale ending the full fat version of “Layla”. This only endears the album to me more. These are no rip-offs, just little-knowing triggers to a pop-heritage muscle reflex buried deep within the brain somewhere that flutter on by with your musical memories in tow.
A guilty pleasure personified, this is an album full of well-crafted pop with a sickly sweet mass-marketing-friendly head on its shoulders. We’re definitely in highly polished commercial waters here, yet there are still enough ideas and twists, however tongue-in-cheek, to snag your attention, whether you like it or not.
At their best, KiNDERGARTEN take all the usual pop clichés: the R&B harpsichords, androgynous man-boy vocals and presently fashionable retro flavors of the ’80s, and mangle them up into their own odd concoction that’s as potent as it can be a bit weird.
This isn’t anything to run home screaming about but it could soon be infecting the airwaves near you like some radio-hungry variant of the swine flu. If you don’t like the idea of teeth-rotting synth-pop burrowing deep into your skull and refusing to leave until you buy the CD, you should grab a couple of those flu masks and cup your ears with them until someone gives the all-clear.