I used to see them everywhere — the foreboding black posters with “I AM KLOOT” printed on them in white block letters. They appeared in the most inconspicuous places, primarily in the background of press photos in magazines. They seemed to show up whenever I least expected them, like the ominous Andre The Giant countenance in Shepard Fairey’s “Obey” campaign. And much like the aforementioned art movement, I had no idea what “I AM KLOOT” meant. And yet, the name kept appearing. Before long, perhaps anti-climactically, I discovered they were a band. But my intrigue persisted, and I had to know more about the men behind the name.
A little research reveals that “I am John” was first proposed by frontman John Bramwell as the trio’s chosen name. Clearly, they went with their next choice. Then I discovered that they actually have two records out in the UK, the first of which, Natural History, prompted City Life Magazine to call Bramwell the “best songwriter in Manchester” and the NME to dub him “Britain’s most able lyricist.” Certainly, a band earning these sorts of accolades is worthy of a listen.
And listen I did, thus reaching the following conclusion: I AM KLOOT is the best Brit-pop band to emerge in the last few years. They’ve got a darker side that you won’t find in Keane or Coldplay. They’ve got a playful side that you won’t hear in South. And they’ve got a looser, more experimental side that you most likely won’t hear in Razorlight or Dogs Die in Hot Cars. This is, in no way, an indictment of the bands mentioned above, though it does mean they’ve got competition. And I AM KLOOT is pretty bloomin’ hard to beat.
For three young Manchester lads, I AM KLOOT can put together a mean rock song. Their first two singles from their self-titled second album, “Untitled #1” and “Life in a Day,” have both won over large audiences in the UK. The former is akin to something Badly Drawn Boy or The Beta Band might have done in their earlier days. It’s a sweet, acoustic song with some quirky keyboard harmonies and a pleasant, almost breezy flow. But “Life in a Day,” not to be confused with Simple Minds’ song of the same name, is much more enormous, as the song is overflowing with rumbling drums, huge guitars and reverb-heavy vocals.
Yet, as is usually the case, there’s even more gold to be unearthed when you look past the singles. The trio takes on a moody, jazz-influenced approach with the excellent “A Strange Arrangement of Colour.” “Mermaids” and “Proof” are slower, but dreamy tracks that reveal themselves to be among the strongest tracks on the album. The centerpiece of the record, “Cuckoo,” is a heavy, driving anthem that ranks among the most powerful Britpop songs of all time, in my book. And you can even shimmy and shake along to the psychedelic pop of “3 Feet Tall.” I’m convinced there’s nothing this band can’t do.
The mystery behind I AM KLOOT may be gone, and I no longer wonder what the story behind the name is. But in my quest to unravel the mysteries, what I’ve learned is far more important — I AM KLOOT is one of the most compelling and unstoppable British bands in some time.
Doves – Lost Souls
The Verve – Urban Hymns
Clearlake – Cedars
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.