Can Kansas City become the next Seattle? With bands like the Get Up Kids, Shiner, and Season to Risk making a name for the Midwestern scene, a case can be made, but the flow is still a trickle and not the torrential downpour that the Emerald City has reached. If Ben Grimes, the lead singer of the Golden Republic, has anything to say about it, KC will be counted amongst the great `rock’ towns in America. But is there a `Kansas City’ sound? Maybe not, but while Vegas has synthetic glitz, L.A. a glam sheen, NYC an arty veneer, then KC, smack dab in the middle of it all, has a return to guitar rock while at the same time skirting the edges of the former styles.
The Golden Republic’s eponymous debut walks a precarious tightrope between popular rock and roll, edgy independence, and frantic new wave. Ultimately, the band does keep their balance all the way until the end of the album, with only a few arm windmills and shaky feet before they pull themselves from the brink again. While they remain sure-footed, certain tracks can resemble producer Peter Katis’ former projects Interpol or even great glam artists of the past such as Grimes’ heroes Bowie and Bolan. When flailing, they almost fall into a void that resembles bands like Maroon 5. Songs “You Almost Had It” and “Rows of People” were featured on their previous People EP and are probably the rawest songs here in album form. While decent, it’s the newer songs that shine.
“She’s So Cold” is where the album finally finds its feet, adding a cello and a sax into the mix. It’s one of the first songs to feature what is sure to be one of their signatures, a trio of “Oh’s”. Then with “I’ll Do Anything”, Grimey gets his falsetto on. If the band truly gets its balance in its earlier tracks, it is with “NYC” that they gain their confidence and truly show what they can do. With more subtle keyboard work than the Killers, with whom they’ll be repeatedly compared, the song is a studied affair in new wave, with simple lyrics and one of the catchiest choruses in recent memory. “Robots” does toe the line of cheese with a John McCrea of Cake-like delivery that almost doesn’t work. But somehow they walk a thin line between Gary Numan’s “Cars” and Styx’s “Mr. Roboto”.
My favorite song on the Golden Republic’s first album is its very last track, that being “You’ll Get Old.” If there’s an inheritor to Greg Kihn’s “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write `Em),” then this is it. Mixing sixties style harmonies with Kihn-like `uh-uh’s’, the song weaves a tale about a promiscuous woman who lost her innocence far too early and now seeks youth by being with more and more men. While each song may not be a masterpiece, eschewing complexity and depth, they are fun and straightforward as some rock and roll should be. In this way, comparisons to the Killers will be apt. And after all, what’s wrong with having a little fun while you rock? Are we that pretentious?
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Robbers on High Street – Tree City
Greg Kihn Band – Rockihnroll