I am Kloot were always a good band. On their first two albums they displayed a talent for tunes and lyrics that made them a band ‘to watch’. The promise has come through on their third album, Gods and Monsters. To explain the qualititave leap forward that the Manchester trio have made, let’s step back into the annals of popular music, back to 1932 and the sage words of Duke Ellington and Irving Miller:
“What good is melody, what good is music
If it ain’t possessin’ something sweet
It ain’t the melody, it ain’t the music
There’s something else that makes the tune complete
It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing“
Far from sweet, Gods and Monsters holds that elusive quality that elevates the average to the ranks of the great. It swings.
Of course, you’re within your rights to ask for more information. Instrumentation, song titles, themes etc, but let’s hammer home the point again, like a fundamentalist pointing to scripture, this record swings.
Strange you might think, as I am Kloot are rightly known for being ever so slightly glum. Have they discovered love, romance, and the spirit of human kindness between albums two and three? No, quite the opposite. Gods and Monsters, as the title hints, is as dark and brooding as any of their previous offerings – but there’s nothing in the rule book to say that you can’t dance while brooding.
A determined drum beat, piano, bass and guitar opens the album with No Direction Home, and the listener is immediately thrown into the strange lyrical world of Johnny Bramwell. There’s a tension between the headstrong music, and the lyrics that express doubt, confusion, and paralysis.
It’s just a prelude though to the title track Gods and Monsters, a lurching, discordant piece filled with tension. Strange trills fill in spaces between the bass, drums and piano, while Bramwell sings:
, keep em burning
, keep em earning
, someone’s got to pay for all this television
Written during the build up to the Iraq invasion, you can’t help but feel that it crystallises a moment in time filled with uncertainty, dread and anticipation. It’s not a blunt song, though, with no specific references to date it. On an album filled with references to blood, vampires, death and the loss of direction, the song Gods and Monsters is the most unnerving by a long shot.
That’s not to give the impression that it’s all doom and gloom. Far from it. Over my Shoulder and The Stars Look Familiar are both gorgeous lush pop songs. Songs that could have been written in the golden days of the Beatles (there’s more than a passing hint to George Harrison’s elegant guitar work), yet don’t sound retro. Just timeless. Over my Shoulder is danceable, upbeat, and brimming with optimism, even if Bramwell can’t quite succumb completely lyrically. The song starts with the couplet “Shut your mouth and watch my lips, can’t you feel the healing fingertips”).
The musical cues through the album vary. There are hints of cabaret through to 60s pop. The two elements that bind them are firstly space. Like so many trio’s before them they have found a dynamic in their group playing. What they don’t play is as important as what they do. It’s exquisitely judged throughout. Secondly there’s Bramwell’s lyrical vision. There’s intelligence and poetry creeping out of every line, but never at the expense of the overall song – something that all the greats, from the brill building through to Lennon & Mccartney, have understood..