Kitchen Knife Wife – Balloon Head

Aussie lads Kitchen Knife Wife are carving out a culinary treat on their debut album Balloon Head. While the pop cuts here marry well every now and again, demonstrating a sharp craftsmanship that the boys can whip out on record, the album makes you think ‘what makes a standout knife collection: is it better to look at it as ten kitchen knives or as a collection, a sum of their parts?’ And for a young band brimming with plenty of ideas, it seems the kitchen knives have mismatched handles coming from the one knife block.
Caveat emptor, an examination of each kitchen knife for practicality and sharpness would find most of them cut smoothly. “Happy” explodes as an opener with hooks aplenty, likening the band to Spoon but with maximalist charm and sing-song-y singing – in fact that keyboard lick could slot in on a Spoon album easily. Later on “Shepherd’s Bush”, named after (I imagine) the locale of Britpop’s roots when the band toured with The Wombats over in the Motherland, has bouncing keys and harmonies like Supergrass. And it continues in this vein: “Cold As Stone” has an “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” Beatles-esque jazzy guitar riff, “Monday Madness” has Kasabian swagger imprints, and there’s a dash of Kaiser Chiefs elsewhere. In fact, even the KKW singer admits on “Easy To See” that “We should be starting something new,” aping the saccharine pop of the Zombies on that chorus.
And it doesn’t mean it’s a cheap imitation, but rather it creates a jarring album as a whole, a situation where the sceptical knife connoisseur would fret and pass on the product in the infomercial. The style here is sooo much, it’s everything and the kitchen sink, which can grievously harm stellar original songs: “Carob Nights” is a trippy carnival, where the guitar tones are too fuzzy and scratchy and the verses contain a ringleader seducing us, to reveal in the chorus “Say no more / The show must still go on.” Even “Kitchen Knife Wife” with its nursery rhyme feel shows a menacing side, a Floyd-like maniacal breakdown.
It’s a pity some songs lean too heavily on the past, trying to prove themselves in the collection and forgetting their importance. But, just like a young band finding their feet and in time proving their worth, the blunt knives can easily be restored with a whetstone – all that’s really needed is the right stuff.
by David Claridad

July 8th 2012
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