Merseyside’s musical mystery tour shows no signs of ever slowing with Clean Cut Kid’s second full-length album hitting the indie radar.
Painwave is a potent and persistent prod at human emotion, the raw and animalistic expression of fear, guilt, love and abandonment. Sound depressing? It couldn’t be further from it. The poppy and bright melodies of their debut album, Felt, remain intact with the added flesh of muscular guitar riffs as demonstrated in the strong ‘Slow Progress’.
The opening bars to ‘Stay Awake’ are a gorgeous bit of indiedom and, where many of today’s less-mainstream bands do tend to sound a bit Britpop-lite, Clean Cut Kid, with their soft harmonies and emotionally shredding lyrics at the heart, are in a class of their own.
‘Plasticine’ is as catchy and malleable as its name suggests. The lovely rhymes in the chorus and the slow, chugging beat makes for a memorable guitar-rock sound. I’m probably in a minority here but ‘Say Nothin’ sounds very soulful. It’s not like Marvin Gaye or James Brown style soul but it has it’s own self-conscious vibe to it, as if to say nothing would somehow be the perfect thing.
An undoubted stand-out from this album is definitely ‘Emily.’ Anybody with previous knowledge of the band may agree that this song could well be a direct rebuttal to ‘Vitamin C’ from the earlier album. The songs do not sound the same but, thematically at least, the repeated “there’s a hole in your heart” seems to be Clean Cut Kid’s signature motif. The band have learned a lot.
Which brings us nicely onto ‘Red Green Black’, which from its first chords has a folky, smoky, Dylan-esque sound. The soft crooning and falsetto harmony could have come right out of the late 1960s counterculture movement. The song then moves into a bouncier beat, slightly jumping from the ground and hovering like a colourful dragonfly over a pond of acoustic melody. How can such a lilting and gospel voice come from a face covered in THAT beard, Mike?
What is it with Liverpool and producing such jangly jingles? When I first heard ‘Goodbye’ I could have mistaken CCK for Family of the Year, such was the lush and tranquil experience of the track. That is not to say that Clean Cut Kid are copying the generic formula for indie pop, far from it, they’re breaking new ground and may even be placed into their own genre category. I cannot distinguish whether this is indie-pop, indie-rock, folk-rock, alternative-rock or the sound of Scouse swagger.
There is still loads to explore, this is merely just a slice of the rich and creamy cake that CCK have baked on low until perfect. Listen to it while it’s still hot. I highly recommend Painwave as a remedy to lethargy and apathy.
This is a band on the up, even after the departure of one of their original members, Saul. A group that will never get the airplay of Arianna Grande or the publicity of the Gallagher brothers but are a seriously flying band on the run.