In the few mentions of Kiss Me Deadly I read before writing this review, most file the group under “post-rock.” Now, maybe I’m not as well versed as I had initially thought, but I thought that that tag was best held for cerebral, not-so-immediately accessible groups like Gastr Del Sol and Tortoise—the kind of thing that people listened to when they were bored of pop but not quite ready to embrace jazz. Kiss Me Deadly, as far as I can tell, play pop music. The song titles basically spell it out, almost literally: “Dance 4,” “Pop,” “Groove.” And Kiss Me Deadly does exactly that; they dance, they pop and they groove.
The Montreal group seems to fall somewhere between their contemporary dancepunk brethren like The Rapture and the 4AD sound of the late’80s (Pixies notwithstanding). If the Cocteau Twins had more of an inclination to shake it, or if The Cure had a little bit more fun on Disintegration, it might sound something like this. Much of the weight (or weightlessness) of their sound lies in the guitars. Chorus, delay, flangers — they’re treated until they become gossamer sheets of sound. Distortion isn’t abandoned, just muted a bit, for though these melodies may seem frail and airy, there’s some muscle backing them.
Aside from the guitars, however, the main driving force behind KMD’s unique sound is frontwoman Emily Elizabeth’s shrieking, chirping voice, which seems, at times, barely there, and at times putting your glassware in danger. Her breathy chant gives the incredible opening track “Dance 4” a ghostly aura, that is, until her shrill screech cuts through the imminent ethereality. And it is her voice that ultimately keeps “Dance 3” from stepping to close to U2, though a trace of the Edge still remains. And her strange moan of “with you/cuckoo” colors “Dance 1” with an inanely sensual quality that will, at the very least, make you smile.
Elizabeth’s co-conspirator, Adam Poulin, also provides vocals on a few tracks, though his is more of an earnest croon, like that Bono guy. One can’t help but be reminded of The British Sea Power when listening to Adam’s songs, partially due to his vocal similarity to Yan, and partially because of the music, which oddly, lends itself more to heavier post-punk sounds than the dance-oriented style of Elizabeth’s songs. Though a gem like “Distress Call” finds a happy medium between dark, edgy rock and new wave dance.
There’s a lot of post-punk in Kiss Me Deadly’s music. But they haven’t traveled that far away from rock music as far as I can tell. They’ve just added a diaphanous sheen, a dancefloor-friendly set of beats and an oddly unique female voice, making for either a very innovative and likeable rock record, or the most impossibly catchy post-rock album ever.
British Sea Power – Open Season
The Cure – Seventeen Seconds
Lush – Split
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.