Kitten Forever are staples of the Twin Cities DIY scene. They also tour nationally and have received a good share of recognition for their unique merger of party punk and vitriol. Overall, the three-piece plays fuzzy, stripped down ragers that alternate between screaming frustration and bopping good times. Semi-Permanent is their fourth full-length and the general tone over the 11-song release is exactly that: there’s a time to party and a time to shout out at what’s wrong with the world. That time is now.
The opening track, “Fun Fact,” displays the band’s style right away. After starting with a unison chant of “Born to die or born to try,” it gets angry fast. Kitten Forever features Laura Larson, Corrie Harrigan, and Liz Elton. The three musicians rotate instruments and vocal duties throughout their live sets, seamless trading roles mid-song. It’s the same on record, and that ability to change gears and keep a steady rhythm going through transition is central to their stripped-down sound. It has the fire of 1990s grunge screams over backing low-tone rhythms at times, shifting into peppy party-punk that fits in with more contemporary acts. “Toothache” shows that split-personality well, with a fast-sung verse over a driving bass and heavy cymbal crashes for about 45 seconds before a danceable melodic chorus. When it returns to verse-mode it begins a crescendo that increases the song’s urgency for the full duration of the 2:24 song.
Despite all the references, Kitten Forever really carry their own weight by pulling all of these influences together and melding them into the unified instrument-swapping consistency across the board. Some comparable bands pull from hardcore’s angst, party-punk’s playfulness, and grunge’s dynamics shifts, but those other bands usually jump around the spectrum in one song to the next. Kitten Forever shifts gears seamlessly within their songs, just as they change their instruments mid-set. The different singers have different styles, and it plays perfectly into a unified, three-as-one concept. It also covers up the band’s main handicap, which is that their penchant for minimalism sometimes leads to droning vocals that hang on a single note instead of moving up and down. This could easily get samey over a full record, but the frequent tradeoffs give it a “catch my breath” air instead of zapping the energy. The distortion adds another texture to keep it moving.
Over the rumbling bass that defines each song, the melodies are super catchy and stick in your head well after the record stops. It’s angry music, it’s fun music, it’s catchy music, and it leaves you thinking about it after the fact. What more can you ask for from a record?
Posted July 26, 2014, 11:26 a.m.
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