A “breach” by definition to my recollection is most commonly used in terms of war, whales, and in complicated and often painful childbirth. All of these references in relation to The Kissaway Trail’s 3rd full-length release could be used to define the former Odense residents’ plot to form their Danish indie-pop masterpiece. What we have here is a band who have poured over the annals of historically epic albums of the last 30 years that have defined a band’s career, seen them at the pinnacle of seemingly un-repeatable success, and meanwhile inspired generations of starry eyed romantics and loners to move the masses and buy their albums, hang their posters on their walls, scratch their choruses on classroom desks and possibly even learn to write and record music of their own. This form of breaching is to punch the whale in the genitals and force him to jump in the air out of frustration or glee, and break the surface of the water while gulping for life affirming air.
Okay- the elephant in the room here that we are going to get out of the way is a little band from Texas and Montreal called The Arcade Fire, whom TKT often draw comparisons to. Like the Arcade Fire (only physically a year and a half behind in all their steps), Kissaway Trail had a groundbreaking first album that saw them picked up by a mega important US indie label, A well thought out second step forward that garnered them a lot of cred on the scene, and following suit, a few years gestation with the result being their race to invade or BREACH the walls of the rest of the world beyond Denmark. This is the war reference folks. Unfortunately you know there is a baby reference somewhere down the hill too.
Breach the album begins with “telly the truth (the breach)”. AWizard of Oz moment happens when we switch from the monochrome lo-fi intro, into the ruby slippered yellow bricked path of color, launching us into the record and setting the tone of double tracked octave vocals, multi layered instrumentation and mid- tempo slow burners. The Kissaway Trail are updating their sound to the standards of former Bella-Union band mates like Wild Nothing and I Break Horses, again, a little late to the party, but better late than never right? Second track, and leadoff single “Nørrebro” (a nod to one of Copenhagen’s ‘burroughs’ if you will) might be a stab at a suburban vignette, with the music coming at you sometimes like an assaying of U2’s Joshua Tree. That’s one poster we might find on this band’s rehearsal room wall. The vocals alas, are buried in the mix, so therefore without close scrutiny in headphones, the lyrics don’t exactly jump out at you. A pattern unfortunately for the rest of the album
“Cuts of Youth (Razor Love)” is next up to bat, and is another 4 chord centric mid-tempo piece with un-moving augmentation to add lift. This trick is employed to great effect here, and you can tell the band has been thinking about how to achieve maximum efficiency with the “less is more” principle. They are not throwing everything they have at it, which is a common folly of bands of our generation going for the golden prize. Another niggling critique I might have is that I’m starting to get a bit wary of the lead vocals. The “wild eyed kiddy in the city” feel is there for effect, however they instill a sense of insincerity to me, rather than innocence or wonderment.
With “The Springsteen Implosion” and “Sara Jevo” we are reaching the critical mid-point of the album. It’s obvious that the band have constructed their album, that’s inferred, and with “The Springsteen Implosion”, we hear a bit of invention beyond their previous patterns with a more dissonant chorus, and that of course is the most un-Springsteen thing you can do. Perhaps it’s their object here but It may be that they are fans of Springsteen’s 70’s urban street dramas set to a soundtrack of cinematic swirls and trying to use his name in a title to hit it home, possibly they are just trying to make contact. Bruce seems like a good friend to have these days, but Bruce, Bono, or Winn Butler (the dude from the Arcade Fire) wouldn’t bury their lyrics in the mix so much. They beg to be heard. Or do they? In “Sara Jevo” we have some very elementary wordplay like “Crying/dying” and “Ready/steady”, which is all good in the right hands, but still, I am straining to hear what the song is actually about, and I doubt it’s about Yugoslavia. We’re also dangerously close to employing yet another old Indie rock chestnut and seemingly writing a song around a title that catches your eye, but then really has nothing to do with the body of the song.
The next few tracks- “Beauty Still Rebels” (a bit further left of the dial with “Pornography” era Cure synths), “So Sorry I’m Not” (a nod to Sonic Youth complete with Thurston Moore ‘sang through a phone’ vocals and discordant guitars) continue on with their mission dutifully. “Sara (r.i.punk)” is a transitional instrumental that sounds like a soundcheck and we continue with “Shaking the Mole”, effectively rounding off the album before their tasteful cover of the Pogues’ “Rainy Night In Soho”, which as surprising as their selection of album closers might be, is a interesting re-working of an Irish Pub sing-along, replacing the drunkenly slurred melody with a more distanced and darker feel.
The album is a great listen, greeting you warmly and handsomely at the top, taking your hand and guiding you through the peaks and valleys of the body, and letting you down easy at the end with a familiar tune as a farewell. The breachedbirth applies in summary however after pondering the entire work. Where the Kissaway Trail flounder in making their epic generational soundtrack is within a ‘fashion over form’ motif, which is the critique that many have of most Danish rock tropes. The best songs that stand the test of time are the ones built by a band often out of desperation, around a strong melody, and a lyrical text that shows our hero’s affected by the world around them. This is where creation (and ultimately birth, or release) is difficult. Either over baked, under conceived, or for lack of passion and effort though, this band will not receive any scorn from pundits. I am sincerely looking forward to seeing where this record puts The Kissaway Trail as well, because virtually every song on the record (save for the instrumental) could easily be featured in heavy rotation and not become annoying, dated, cliché or pedestrian like many of their peers.
I would never wish it upon them, but if their hometown of Odense were flooded, torn apart by hurricanes, bombed by extremist terrorists or heaven forbid: won a coup to host the summer Olympics (which Odense would never be allowed to unless every other major city on Earth were swallowed up in some kind of apocalyptic event) then the Kissaway Trail would be the band for rebuilding with an inspired soundtrack and life affirming music for a generation. Until then however, we are waiting to see what’s next for this promising troupe.
The Kissaway Trail’s “Breach” is out today, and they will be performing next in Aarhus at RADAR on 18/10. Tickets are still available.