Monday, 10 July 2017

Album Review: Seafoam by Kamikaze Girls (by Robyn Pierce)

Kamikaze Girls is a British, indie punk duo featuring Lucinda Livingstone on guitar and vocals, and Conor Dawson on drums. They’ve been on the scene for a while but have just released their first full-length album, ‘Seafoam’, on Big Scary Monsters. I didn’t really know Kamikaze Girls before getting into this record. They played Fest 15 in Florida where I caught the very end of their set, and they seemed cool – but I only thought of them again when I saw the ridiculously beautiful album art for ‘Seafoam’ (and the sea-green/pink splatter or half-n-half vinyl is just perfection). I know you shouldn’t judge a record by its cover, but I immediately flagged it in my mind as an album I should check out.

Thankfully, the attractive packaging doesn’t lie. Seafoam immerses you in wonderful, floating melodies that take you out of the world and bear you away – but, like the ocean, these songs also have an underlying power and aggression that steadily breaks in angry, foaming waves. ‘One Young Man’ opens the album with haunting vocals and some slowly creeping reverb, but the song soon kicks up a gear by introducing the drums and some gutsy guitar. This leads nicely into ‘Berlin’, which has the same deep, grungy distortion but increases the energy. Lucinda’s vocals are no longer slow or ethereal, but speak out more harshly almost from underneath the music. Combined with the song’s driving melody, her contemptuous lyrics give ‘Berlin’ a pulsing, panicked vibrancy that I really enjoy. ‘Teenage Feelings’ is another strong track on this album, with a fun, catchy hook and a chorus that immediately gets stuck in your head. It reminds me of Lemuria, but the Kamikaze Girls’ sound is fuller and more atmospheric. Things slow down again in ‘Good for Nothing’, which feels like sinking down into the deep, buzzing groove of depression. It’ll make you sway heavily and search for some comfort food. There’s also frustration here about being pressured to be a certain way, and feeling inauthentic. Frustration becomes vitriol in ‘KG Go to the Pub’, where the band rages against cat-calling with Lucinda yelling out ‘I’m not your fucking sweetheart’ and highlighting its real effects by saying ‘I’m nervous to the leave house, because you’re a predator to me now’. Her exasperation at the fact that this disgusting behaviour is repeated again and again is mirrored in the song’s steady, banging beat. It’s the shortest and punkiest song on the record, and really empowering for any woman who has struggled to go outside without receiving unwelcome comments about her body/clothing/demeanour.

Heading into the second half of the album, ‘Lights and Sounds’ allows you to float away into a dreamy soundscape that’s not as reactionary as the previous tracks. It’s a refreshing interlude before heading into the album’s second single, ‘Deathcap’. This song has an immediate feel-good quality, with catchy guitar and some tight drumrolls, although it has a satirical edge and mocks the common assumptions made about millennials. It also has great rise and fall, with an assertive bridge giving way to a sweeter chorus. The next track, ‘Weaker Than’, shifts into some other-wordly reverb. It’s a ballad with real pathos about finding the strength to survive. ‘Unhealthy Love’ offers another good midtempo track with a steady rhythm, but the aggression that was there in the earlier songs is lacking a little here. ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad’ slows things down again and looks seriously at the difficulty of confronting the world’s problems and staying critically conscious. The band seems to suggest that, although no one wants to be sad, it’s a necessary consequence of facing up to current issues and the first step to overcoming them. The song is an inspiring end to a great album.

‘Seafoam’ is pleasantly different to anything else I’ve listened to this year. Its title is very apt - the sound is often floating and delicate, but this foam fizzes with distortion and is stirred up by the raw power of all the struggles that Kamikaze Girls is fighting. Their first full-length is beautifully crafted and ruthlessly critical. It does what good art should - it provides an escape from daily hardship while also prompting you to think more deeply about the world’s issues. If you haven’t already, you should definitely take some time out to give ‘Seafoam’ a listen.

Stream Seafoam here:

Like Kamikaze Girls here:

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.