by James Fleming
Indie rock has always been a cathartic experience. Whether it was the feedback-drenched wall of sound of such noise mongers as Sonic Youth and Swans, or in the more melodic approaches of mid-to-late career Hüsker Dü or The Pixies. There was a terrific sense of emotional connection with the bands.
The Little Kicks, specialising in what they call “indie disco pop,” are one of many bands who have latched on to the emotional or sensitive side of indie music. The result, is wimpy.
Not wimpy in any sort of un-masculine sense, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who would describe their sound as “strong.”
The Little Kicks’ fourth record Shake Off Your Troubles is wimpy-sounding because they haven’t got the balance right.
Where previous indie bands such as the aforementioned legends or even giants like Nirvana got the balance right is, that while you could hear the emotion in the music, and in Cobain’s case that was a deep pain, there was a certain fearlessness to their sound.
Shake Off Your Troubles sounds far from fearless. Even in similarly dance-orientated indie bands such as Foals, while the music sounds a far cry from indie’s original cathartic roar, there’s a certain sense of experimentation.
The Little Kicks, in trying to make indie disco pop, have come out sounding like a mash-up of Kodaline-style blandness with New Order style grooves.
Which, granted, makes them much more interesting than Kodaline. But, even on a track with such a promising title as Don’t Get Mad, Get Even, lift-off is not quite achieved.
It starts off well with the opening instrumental song Theme’s atmospheric synths. But even then, it’s still not quite as ambient as pioneers such as Tangerine Dream.
And that New Order-esque groove never changes. It remains at a constant monotonous pace across Shake Off Your Troubles’ ten tracks.
That persistent mid-paced groove gives the record a mechanical feel. A lukewarm, soulless, effect of perfection and precision.
Tepid is the word. It sparks on occasion, but never catches fire. Which makes for a very boring listen.
NME said “there’s an awful lot to like,” and that may very well be true in the context of what indie music has become.
What indie has become, is a pseudo-alternative. And within the realms of that, I will concede, Shake Off Your Troubles is marginally more interesting than Coldplay. However, that does not change the fact that it’s a very diluted version of the original wave’s potency and power.
And “power” here does not equate to a muscular or masculine sound. I’m talking about vitality.
What is being billed as indie, which was a byword for alternative, has lost much of the fire of its predecessors. Since the notion that money could be made with alternative music caught on after grunge broke in the early nineties, the alternative genres have been on a downward trajectory.
And albums such as Shake Off Your Troubles were spawned. Tepid, lukewarm, boring.
Words by James Fleming.