Pressure is a party. The three-piece band Kitten Forever trade off vocals constantly throughout, and even swap instruments while they’re at it. It starts off with a 43 second intro track of vocal switcheroos and handclaps before shifting into the muddy “Cry Baby” that sets the stage well for their alternating tones of distorted punk and happy-clap sing-song. While the name conjures the cute and cuddly and the tone is positive and peppy, there’s also a serious undertone to their work.
Kitten Forever don’t hide their influences, and the 1990s Northwest scene from Kill Rock Stars to riot grrrl to glory days Sub Pop are all discernible in their music. The bass and drums and distorted and muddy, bringing Nirvana’s Bleach to mind and the positively charged vocal call and response that repeats throughout the album is similar to the method employed on the new The Julie Ruin record. While such influences play a role, the band finds itself in quick structures that bang out those punchy call and response parts, and then settles into a melody that fits the early peppy beat while alternately hitting on a new and separate flow. It’s a complicated cohesion, but it all pulls together seamlessly. While the set-up is a key part to their overall sound, it’s the melodic hooks that burst forth from the varied singers, taking them to a new peak and often turning some fun phrases in the process. The verses tend to be a fast lyrical bit followed by a sung/screamed chorus that builds up speed as it goes. It’s highly caffeinated music, in direct contradiction of the distorted rhythm section.
Standouts come in “Famous Friends,” which turns a hell of an alliterative phrase in “Turn me over like a penny in your pocket,” said with express speed, while “Black Ice” has a big, dominant bass chug that commandeers the energy from the vocals, which is where the majority of the record’s power comes in. Then, in “Dirt Nap” it goes back towards the melodic focus in another noteworthy track that has a strong Kill Rock Stars vibe. Earlier, “Little Beasts” has an ‘80s hardcore feel to it that mixes up the record’s feel nicely, going on a skeletal structure and banging out a quick angry burst. If there’s a fault to Pressure, Kitten Forever may abuse the vocal trade-offs a bit too much. By the time of title track “Pressure,” the album closer, it feels less effective when they swap out single lines to close each refrain. Given the quick play time of the record, it’s a minor issue as the energy and shout-along nature override.
Posted July 26, 2014, 11:26 a.m.
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