CD Review

by Mike Corrigan

There are times when you really can judge a book by its cover, particularly if that book is actually a brave new album by UK band, Kaito. This 50/50 girl/boy squad (comprised of vocalist/guitarist Nikki Colk, bassist Gemma Cullingford, guitarist David Lake and drummer Dee Quantrill) has adopted artsy, sweetly provocative visual iconography to grace the cover of each release, complementing the remarkably jagged, damaged pop lurking within.

Band Red (SpinArt) finds Kaito expanding on its so-noisy-it's-delicious MO: an aggressive yet playful combination of sass and chaos wrapped up in fuzzy, growling lo-fi atmospherics and squirming electronics first properly showcased on the band's 2001 debut long-player, You've Seen Us ... You Must Have Seen Us. It's the sound of unself-conscious enthusiasm for punk's directness with lyrical references to broken hearts, junkies, paranoia, obsession, French love and junk culture. Those uninitiated into the universe of fetching noise as explored by V.U., the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Pavement and Bikini Kill may be slightly taken aback by this quartet's fearless demolition of convention in the quest for sound perfection. For the rest of us, it's just the thing to clean out the pipes.

The opener, "Enemyline," juxtaposes an impish guitar figure with a chorus of torture chamber howls before Colk careens into the heart of an infatuation confessional: "I did nothin' wrong till I saw you / And it's all gone wrong cuz I like you." Next "Should I?" sounds a little like a fusion of Bis and Elastica (especially when Colk squeals the title hook). On the stumbling "Try Me Out," ambivalence and confusion reign supreme ("Why not shut me out? / Why not try me out?").

But there is also unbearable lightness and naked honesty to leaven the six-stringed and sampled mayhem. And Colk's typically compressed, chanted vocals have a neat way of crossing over to the warm, fragile and immediate -- particularly on shaky ballads like "Nothin New," the lovely "Moi" and the tender coda, "3 a.m."

Like a pretty picture desecrated by razor blade to the degree that it becomes something else entirely -- something far more beautiful, in fact -- Kaito deconstructs the basics of the music that communicates best to craft irresistible pop shards that have a way of penetrating and wedging neatly under your derma. It's the perfect place for them, you know.

Publication date: 05/15/03