The Loose Kites, hailing from Chester, are one of those delightfully quirky and effortlessly eccentric groups that Britain seem to have a particularly knack of producing. Their music is difficult to pigeonhole genre-wise but is somewhere between rockabilly and folk (folkabilly….? Perhaps not).
Having released their eponymous debut in 2009 to wide acclaim, even catching the attention and admiration of legendary Bowie producer Tony Visconti, this second album has been a while in the making, but certainly worth the wait. Whereas their debut had a raw, ramshackle charm this album is a more musically sophisticated piece of work.
Consisting of thirteen tracks the whole album has a warm, rustic sound. Crystal-clear acoustic guitars and inventive, driving basslines, courtesy of ‘Bod’, jostle for your attention with flourishes of brass and strings adding fullness and sonic colour.
Vocalist Simon Poole helps define the band’s unique sound with a soulful, rasping voice, and Jai Stark’s tumbling tom-tom fills bring to mind a less aggressive Danny Goffey (Supergrass). Since their debut they have added keyboard player Mike Collings who fills out the sound nicely with some rich Hammond organ and occasional barrelhouse piano.
Not many bands would lead off their album with a song featuring a viola solo (ok, interlude) but that’s exactly how Of Bricks and Brambles begins. Opener ‘Andrew’ is an infectious and delightfully quirky toe-tapper, punctuated by stabs of brass and musical left-turns, contrasted with an oddly poignant lyric about drinking alone and emotional impotence.
Just as a band like The Pixies took the traditional rock song structure and turned it on its head, The Loose Kites show that you can still be inventive and original within the confines of the three-minute pop song. The lively tone continues with Nice to Be Nice, a gem of a song featuring the lyric ‘It’s what we’re here for…making life richer for the poorer’, a line so succinct that it could be regarded as the Kites’ entire manifesto.
Cold Comfort Home is perhaps my favourite on the album, a wistful, surprisingly moving song about a prodigal son returning home to a cold reception with an older brother who can do no wrong. This kind of narrative-driven songwriting is not easy to pull off, but the Kites do so with consummate ease.
Hold Your Horses is another pearl, starting with some late-night jazz bar trumpet before developing into another finely crafted song (superb arrangement on this one) about the hectic pace of modern life. Lyrically, it is reminiscent of Lennon’s ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, musing about ‘the dumbing down of the profound…..the pavements bustling like a nuclear merry-go-round’.
Other highlights for me were ‘Lothario’, ‘Latch Key Kid’ and ‘We Got A Groovy Thing Goin’ On’ is, for want of a better word, groovy. The curiously titled ‘An Incident of Extraordinary Cons’ is another catchy-as-hell tune that hurtles along at breakneck pace and ends with a magnificent blow-out section leading to the dreamy closing track Come Walk With Me. With acoustic finger-picking work that Nick Drake would have been proud of and delicate piano, it conjures the ethereal sound-world of Love’s Forever Changes, bringing the album to a suitably satisfying close.
Whether The Loose Kites break through to the upper echelons of the music industry remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt they deserve to. Anyone who has seen them perform knows they are also a fantastic live band and they themselves must want more than to be ‘Britain’s best-kept musical secret’. However, in an era when a folk group like Mumford and Sons can headline Glastonbury, it could be the case that this album is the catalyst for bringing the Kites out of the shadows to a much wider audience.
Verdict: 8.9 out of 10
Official Website: https://www.theloosekites.com