Established in 1818 (so dixit Facebook), Kal Marks used to roam the streets of Boston, looking frantically for something Bono hasn’t found. In this state of wander, they got snagged by Exploding in Sound and chucked into a recording studio. Unlike that album from Neil Young‘s Ditch Trilogy, the frantic thoughts and shambolic mental tangents were neatly recorded and now are trapped in an album named Life is murder.
If by now you haven’t figured it out, Exploding in Sound tend to have a knack for catching guitar heavy bands that tap that slacker, dissonant vein of rock we feared died and got a flannel-shroud funeral at sea. Kal Marks is another argument to prove the genre is not only undead (like Bela Lugosi) but also quite alive, in a tower surrounded by Mongbats wielding axes with Rat pedals.
My point (there is one – I swear) is that although there’s a sense of jauntiness in these tracks Kal Marks have loom-weaved for us, there’s an uneasy feeling emanating. Whether by a noisy freakout like the one displayed in the stupendous ‘All I want in life is a solid porch’ or the topsy turvy elements of the delectable ‘Parking lot’, there’s a darkness imbued in every track. Think Gormenghast goes punk.
But, hey, if you look at the abyss and the abyss looks back, cracks open a can of beer and rocks out something as good as ‘Where a river starts and ends’, well, I for one welcome our new unsettling overlords. This track is like the evil twin of Weezer’s ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ and it might be the first moment you pay attention to the band.
How come it takes 4 tracks for you to actually pay attention? Well, it’s because this band is like the ending of the original Friday the 13th: a peaceful morning in a lake and then – fuckola! – Jason jumps and pulls our hero into the water. So happens in this album, which at moments feels like a single song that lasts 36 minutes, not that it’s samey, but it feels like one of those rare occasions when there’s a perfect cohesiveness in an album, where songs flow into each other just right. The only other album I can think has done that in recent years is Chris Cornell‘s misstep Scream and I’m still hurt by that one.
Sorry, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself. Let’s continue building the argument of Kal Marks ‘Life is Murder as a cohesive album.The heavy ‘Parking lot’, for example, bleeds into ‘Peaking’, which does a false start. If you aren’t paying attention to your music player, it feels like both songs are the same behemoth. ‘Life is murder’ contains some DNA from the Space Rock scene from Champaign- Urbana, with enough drum rolls to satisfy anyone missing Hum (like, well, me!)
‘Swamp Playlist’ gets that Louisville essence wrapped to go, then it’s spiced up with good ol’ Boston know how, making it a mean trip through the axons and dendrites. ‘That Fucking Ocean’ feels spacious and the easy going rhythm lets the song aerate until a full flavour is achieved; a rich red wine that delivers a full flavour and gives no hangover. Gotta love that bass, adding an earthly element that’s quite pensive.
‘Out in the deep’ couldn’t be a better album closer. Quiet, introspective and eerie, it smoulders until it combusts in a quick, violent blue flame. It could’ve been hampered by a fade out but this is not the case. Best of all? If you have Life is Murder on repeat (recommendable), you can enjoy the creepy intro of ‘Love is a song… not an answer’.
And perhaps being stuck in a never ending cycle of horror is the biggest jump scare you can get in 2013.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López