It all starts with an EP. It usually does. Show me the band that arrives in full-force without having handed out singles or home recorded demos at hometown shows and I’ll call you a liar (supergroups consisting of established musicians excluded, of course). Any music fan can attest to picking up that $8 EP from the opening act they had never heard of yet soon became their new favorite band. I know I’ve personally had that happen several times, and it can be even more exciting than catching the headliners if you happen to go on a particularly good night. The internet has made marketing music easier, however, and not every band relies as heavily upon good old Econoline van cross-country hauling as they used to. Couple that with the chaotic state of the record industry/piracy/RIAA and it makes perfect sense that Jacksonville, Florida based indie pop outfit would make their debut via free download on their MySpace page.
At just about 15 minutes in length, Black Kids’ Wizards of Ahhhs makes a concise but breathtaking opening statement. Composed of merely four songs, those four songs come wonderfully crafted, with easily enough hooks for each to become hit singles. Even without being marketed as such, “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend To Dance With You” has already become something of a blogger and mixtape favorite, just to prove my point. And there’s three more songs of equal caliber, super catchy and more fun than most similar-minded bands sound like they’re having this year.
Black Kids’ hook delivery method is versatile, yet refined, impressively so for such a young band. Go! Team-style cheering and enthusiasm bounces back and forth between the earnest pageantry of The Arcade Fire and the gloom and glamour of mid-`80s Cure. Singer/guitarist Reggie Youngblood even vocally recalls Robert Smith at times, particularly on the laid back, yet still danceable “Hurricane Jane.” What’s more, Youngblood has the gloomy teenage attitude down pat: “It’s Friday night and I ain’t got nobody/ what’s the use of making the bed?” Scoff at the emotional theatrics if you like, but that this band is actually capable of making me feel like a frustrated teen again is a particularly admirable talent.
“Hit The Heartbrakes” reveals a different side of Youngblood, as he sings of one night stands, and even drops an “it’s not me it’s you.” Ouch. But such a sweet synth-pop nugget can only make that rejection go down a little better. Youngblood’s guitar squeals with a raw, punk scratch that neatly juxtaposes Dawn Watley and Ali Youngblood’s (Reggie’s sister) keyboards. Youngblood confesses “you are the girl that I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl,” on “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend To Dance With You,” his gender-bending affectation meshing perfectly with the awesome new wave melodies. There’s a pretty obvious reason why so many have already taken to this song: it’s bloody amazing. But “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” isn’t too shabby either, a Pulp-like pop track that jangles and struts with a great, tambourine-shaking chorus.
So, it starts with an EP, and this is a hell of a way to do so. Black Kids haven’t signed to a label as of yet, but now they’ve gotten everyone’s attention, which should make finding one just a bit easier down the line. The day they offer their delicious new wave pop in full-length form will be an exciting one, but topping this perfect, concise effort should prove to be quite a feat.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.