Kids In Glass Houses - In Gold Blood
Engaging with the world at large: the unavoidable challenge for all the young dudes. Kids In Glass Houses present their manifesto for change, a third album that takes an axe to the umbilical ties of the broader punk-pop scene and the stultifying vacuum created by so many of its big names. Learned ears would nail this one’s provenance and intentions in an instant. There’s a juxtaposition of wayward endeavour and predictable shapes, suggesting artistic intent trying to find direction and shape against the pressures of expectation; a band attempting a more mature outlook despite the temptation to conform.
And bugger me, they very nearly pull it off. If it had the courage of much of its conviction, In Gold Blood could have been a riot. Indeed, for much of its careering, blistering arc, it is intense, darkly serious and smart enough to keep things kinda fun. Opener ‘Gold Blood’ fuses clanging riffola and prescient social observation: “We’ve been digging our graves by night and day … and the streets are not ours.”
There’s a three song burst in the middle of the running order that really raises the eyebrows, demands you stomp on shallow assumptions. ‘The Florist’ is huge and proffers an unexpected soul-funk sheen. ‘Animals’ picks up that baton with a nod to The Verve’s ‘The Rolling People’, throbbing beats, dark and enveloping. ‘Only The Brave Die Free’ ushers in a wall of brass - bright, shining evidence that the identikit attractions of punk-pop, with its breakneck processed beats and terrace anguish, might have started to pall for an outfit with loftier designs than the pack.
There are plentiful positives. Aled Phillips’ vocals are defiantly un-weedy and at growly odds with the genre template. The production is unshowy and bright, with everything thrown upfront. Variation of both tempo and mood beyond the usual slow one/fast one format is always a good idea. But in the end KIGH’s failings are notable enough to undercut their successes. If only they’d shown more of the guile that informs so much of In Gold Blood, this album might have gripped a little tighter. As it is, it dips somewhat towards the end. ‘Fire’, slipping in on a faux r ‘n’ b groove, is genuinely, jaw-droppingly odd, the worst kind of smooth. A few songs earlier the speakers were rattling and now we’ve gone all Backstreet Boys? Insult meets injury on a frankly ludicrous chorus, where Phillips sings “We dance into the fire, fire / The flames are getting higher, higher.” Come on now – that’s just f***ing lazy. Shape up. The closing ‘Black Crush’ is a bit too lighters-in-the-air and the album ends with its early sorties into the land of ambition and effort replaced with desperate grasping for the tatty rule book. Which is a shame.
Having suffered, and relentlessly speared, what feels like a truckload of the very worst kind of vapid, limp-wristed Kerrang! fodder this past year, it’s heartening to report that all is not lost. But this could have been so much more. Get it right on that difficult fourth album, eh, boys?