In the midst of the myriad different sounds that are coming from the San Diego music scene this year, there are a few bands that seem to be just on the verge of becoming something vastly larger than the sum of their parts. Like the turn of a knob under a pot of hot water, the subtlest action could bring things to the boiling point… Or not. The sound could bubble over and break out of the local arena into the national mainstream or get muffled in the kettle alongside other local acts that could not build enough steam to break through. Some bands refine their music and polish their shoes in hopes of abandoning their day jobs pedaling tourists around downtown in rickshaws. Some cite an idealistic stance of “art above all.” The latter usually results in brilliant music that will never leave Mum’s garage in La Mesa. Where is the happy medium?
Enter the first label release of a relatively new band in San Diego. The New Kinetics isn’t really a new band if we count each member individually. It’s a grab bag of members from other San Diego favorites that, for unclear reasons, never quite seemed to coalesce. A few months back saw the release of an EP distributed by the band itself, titled Rock and Roll Has Got to Go, which gave us a brief glimpse of the thrills and spills to come. Contact starts up right away with a steadily building reserve of anger and frustration channeled through old broken equipment and forgotten Dylan/Reed style tongues. Ever quick with a self-deprecating one-liner, guitarist Brian Reilly told us, “Rock and roll appeals to people with problems. I guess in that case I am an expert.” The lead singer, Birdy Bardot, is an explosively dynamic performer that can be playful and flirtatious one moment and burning with indignation the next. The instrumentation’s lineage could be traced back to bands like The Jam, The Small Faces, or The Kinks, but with the veracity of The Who circa 1968. It is a rebirth of the Mod culture identity crisis, and it’s catchy as hell. Though the unorthodox writing and clever subject matter are not usually well suited for swift, sharp, hard-hitting British-influenced rock music, the conviction of this record and the driving rhythms of drummer Jon Bonser and bassist Leslie Schultze plow through pretenses and go straight for the vein with a level of intensity commonly found in a rabid fox. The group is small, well dressed, well spoken, not possessing an image of extreme danger, but their live shows are brutal onslaughts of firebomb pop music.
The band will be the first to admit that their choice of profession has nothing to do with money. Reilly told us that he sometimes says to himself, “Thank you God. I sure do appreciate you making me good at something that pays the wage of a bridge troll.” But The New Kinetics don’t make music to pay the bills. Like most lifelong rockers, their love for what they do runs deep. “When I was eleven,” says Reilly, “a teacher of mine once told me that rock music wasn’t important and would never change anything. To which I responded, haven’t you heard of Bob Dylan? I then told Sister Diane to go to hell.” We can’t say whether this tale is apocryphal, but it does illustrate the love affair they have with music. No doubt they would be happy even if they stayed where they are forever. But we don’t think that is what their future holds. The ever-present glass ceiling hovers above like the blinding gleam of the advancing edge of a guillotine. Always light on their feet and tight-fisted, The New Kinetics will hit that ceiling. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
released September 27, 2011
Music and lyrics by The New Kinetics.
All songs recorded at Earthling Studios - San Diego, California.
Produced by Mike Kamoo and The New Kinetics.
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