Kinski – 7 (or 8)
Kill Rock Stars Records
By Graham Isaac
Seattle’s Kinski are, in many ways, a rock band’s rock band. If that sounds like faint praise, it shouldn’t; over the course of eight full lengths and multiple EPs and splits, they’ve burnt themselves a clearing that’s surrounded by blown out fuzz, soaring psychedelia, crisp atmospherics, and motorik rhythms. Its a sound that defies categorization, while still offering familiar elements (a big riff here, a moody outro there) that welcome the listener in. Kinski should teach classes for young bands on how to synthesize their influences into something uniquely recognizable (this is a lecture I’d happily sit in on.)
Whether or not their new album (and second for Kill Rock Stars) 7 (or 8) lands well with you is going to depend on what type of Kinski you prefer; do you want the Kinski you can slot on a playlist between one of Neu!’s riffier tracks and Explosions in the Sky, or do you want the Kinski that recently split a 7″ with local grunge2 gods Sandrider? You’ll get a solid taste of the former, more meditative Kinski on the excellent album centerpiece “Powder,” and the gorgeous stoned-in-your-apartment closer “Bulletin of the International String Figure Association,” but for the most part this is a showcase for the band’s muscular side; opener “Detroit Trickle Down” starts things off at a brisk pace, layering sounds and solos without ever bogging down. Even heavier is “Flight Risk,” one of the two tracks. with vocals, starting as it does with a burly bass line that had me scanning my Melvins discography for comparison. When the drums, guitars, and vocals kick in the song thrashes and crunches over vocalist Chris Martin’s tale of hangovers and nights gone wrong.
The most surprising song on the record is “Operation Negligee,” a fuzzy melodic vocal track that comes close as I can remember to straight up psych-pop; it transitions us from the crushing “Drink Up and Be Somebody” (hey, don’t mind if I do) to “Bulletin. . .” with aplomb. Martin even manages to sing us a song about about a sad girl without it sounding like your typical “Rock Guy Sings About Sad Girl” song. This isn’t something most bands manage. Perhaps the most striking thing about 7 (or 8) is how at ease Kinski sound in all of these songs. The energy – significantly upped from 2013’s Cosy Moments – feels fresh, and vital, with the density of the heavier tracks creating a sense of relief when the band slows it down.
The main criticism I’d have is that at seven tracks, the album is a little too dense, and a little too short. One or two more songs – of any style – could have given this album a bit more room to get lost in; as is, it ends a bit too soon for total immersion. Still, 7 (or 8) feels both fresh and familiar – it’ll do nicely in lieu of a lecture. – (7/10…or maybe 8/10)
Kinski play Seattle’s Chop Suey on September 18 with Moon Duo and Shitty Person. Tickets are just 12 bucks.