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Simple Kid - SK2

Simple Kid, SK2

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SIMPLE Kid first came to attention following the release of his debut album SK1 in 2003 and its strangely endearing single Truck On, a sort of Beck hybrid that marked a triumph of DIY recording.

He returns with the similarly quirky SK2 and maintains the do-it-yourself approach. Recorded in his own house during what he refers to as “the great hibernation of 2004/5”, it involved the artist laying down tracks on an old cassette recorder, transferring them to computers inside a studio for a little playfulness, and then returning them to cassette form in order to retain the distinctly raw feel.

During that time, Simple Kid messed around with the format a little further, slowing some down and speeding some up to create a unique and somewhat old-fashioned feel. Hence, while a lot of new material sounds too slick and over-produced, SK” sounds like it could have been extracted straight from Simple Kid’s bedroom.

Such is the quality of the music, however, that it merely lends the album a greater appeal, while serving to showcase the undeniable talent of this particular artist.

The Beck comparisons are still there, particularly in the way Simple Kid fuses some hip-hop inspired beats with folksy guitars, but there are also elements of Badly Drawn Boy, Joseph Arthur, The Flaming Lips and Jason Downes for good measure.

The album impresses from the start with opening track Lil’ King Kong emerging as a lively introduction, fuelled by a meaty slice of country steel guitar, some snappy beats and some wonderfully breezy banjo.

Self-Help Book features a slide guitar and banjo overload that flirts with early Gomez, especially vocally, while The Twentysomething cranks things up a notch with some foot-stomping beats, more slide guitar and psychedelic vocals that really mark the album at its most striking.

You might not necessarily be able to sing along, given that the sound has been deliberately warped, but it lends the songs a distinctly ramshackle sound that’s certainly unique.

Simple Kid even attempts to broaden his range by changing pace at several points, with varying degrees of success. An acoustic guitar driven ballad called Old Domestic Cat endears and frustrates in equal measure and could do with an injection of pace, while the folk-heavy A Song Of Stone enchants because of its more upbeat acoustic riffs and a vocal style that’s clearly been inspired by Simon & Garfunkel.

As mentioned, however, it’s at its best when piling on the instruments and tossing in the beats. Former single Serotonin is a real highlight, featuring a lazy beat that hints at Joseph Arthur, as well as some sweeping strings. The underlying guitar riff is also nicely enticing.

The kooky Oh Heart, Don’t Be Bitter is another favourite that benefits from the warped sound that Simple Kid has added – a footstomper that drops in the type of chorus The Flaming Lips might be proud of. The strained central guitar riff lends it a distinct sound of its own, however, that retains Simple Kid’s own sense of creative style.

SK2 marks a confident progression from Simple Kid’s similarly gutsy debut and is notable for its DIY approach and quirky sense of individuality. The inspirations may be obvious but the songs contain their own unique charm – and for that we can be grateful, for this is an album that delights in so many ways.

Track listing:

  1. Lil’ King Kong
  2. Self-Help Book
  3. The TwentySomething
  4. Old Domestic Cat
  5. Serotonin
  6. A Song Of Stone
  7. Mommy ‘N’ Daddy
  8. Oh Heart, Don’t Be Bitter
  9. You
  10. Love’s An Enigma (Part II)