Putting out a down-and-dirty, old-school rock record in this day and age is a risky proposition. Not only do the songs have to be good in and of themselves, but they also have to find the right balance between an homage to the greats that inspired the music, and creating a new, unique sound. Unfortunately, local trio Kids On Fire fails on both counts.
The production is punchy, the instrumentation is raw and immediate, and the vocals are passionate, but the songwriting is notably feeble. The majority of the songs are utterly indistinguishable from one another and lack any real structure to latch onto. Although the verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern is ubiquitous in music, its prevalence is not a product of happenstance. It’s used because it works. KOF play so fast and loose with the conventions of song structure that the songs often degrade into a clusterfuck of cacophonous drumming, spastic rhythm guitar and tortured wailing.
The throwback affectations of KOF don’t so much feel like reverence as they do outright thievery. Throughout the album I was constantly reminded of songs by The Jam or The Clash or any number of other garage rock and proto-punk bands that KOF have stylistically mimicked. Lamentably, all I could think about was how much I would rather be listening to those records instead.
The one exception to the above gripes is “Grand Mystifier.” This is great song. It has a memorable and instantly recognizable riff, a great chorus that you’ll be humming for days, and a solid conventional song structure. Hopefully, they will learn from this limited success and build their next album with songs written in a similar fashion.
You can catch Kids on Fire live at the West End Cultural Centre on Jan. 16 and at The Cavern on Jan. 22.
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