The Metal West
Brian Eno once was quoted saying that Jimi Hendrix was his favorite lyricist. Not guitarist, but lyricist, citing the lilting free oddballness of "The Wind Cried Mary." My reaction was perhaps the same as many, that um, you don't listen to Hendrix for the lyrics, but it did open me up a little, realizing that you get what you get from something, irrelevant to what the producer wanted you to get, a lesson very valuable when I started doing art exhibitions. People looooooovvvvvvveeee the piece you threw together at the end to fill up that little spce of wall, the one you considered leaving in the car when doing the installation. The one you think is brilliant and was wrought from tears and bleeding fingers and sleepless nights is the one that gets a furtive try-to-be-polite-to-the-desperate-artist nod when you ask someone about it.
The reason I mention this is because in listening to Kid Icarus' The Metal West, I get a general sense that the Kids are big fans of the mid career Sonic Youth (as am I) but for the "wrong" reasons: instead of the screwdriver-in-the-damaged-strat-plate tectonics, they have seemed to latch onto the melodic sense the Youth uses to keep their songs afloat. The opening rocker "Beekeepers on the Edge of Town" sounds like a b-side of the of something off Sister.
On the rest of the record, the Kids take a more rambly jangly acoustic approach to the same sense of melody that serves them better than the mild rock machinations of the first track. "A Retail Hell" sounds like so many recent faux-folk acts, but opts to actually be clever instead of merely pose as clever, and the reference to their remote Pennsylvania coal-mined landscape "My Anthracite Headache" evokes the honest dramatics of a Destroyer or a Bright Eyes without submerging the song in it. There are loads of catchy hooks on this record, like on "Marlowe's Blues" but the real shiners are the droney stretched out simple guitar passages of "The Murderess" and especially the resplendent title track. The slow build up of acoustic and distorted guitars in"The Metal West" with a chemical haze of muted harmonica hanging in the air is worth the price of admission here.
The chimey-then-punky-then-moody "700 Angry Ghosts" is a somewhat goofy yet effective little rocker that I think best relates the myriad of styles that go into this group, and the somber "White Church Road" with its deft acoustic picking and organ haze show their strengths with the best line of the album
He's Captain Alcohol
He's Captain Love
This was my first introduction to Kid Icarus, who have released a couple albums on the scrappy Summersteps label, but as they/he (you never know how many people are in a "band" these days) gain their/his grip on the natural style inside, I hope I hear more.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com