Review: Rob Lord
I DON'T eagerly await anything anymore. Christmas and birthdays
no longer excite me. I may get a little twitchy close to a holiday,
but that’s as stimulated as I get these days.
Jon Kennedy, though, does it for me. In the aural sense only,
His first two albums, one for Grand Central (GC) and one for
Tru Thoughts, were a benchmark. Just like Ninja Tunes, GC have
moved the breaks on from scratches and flute loops to more organic
and more musical pieces. Jon Kennedy has been leader of the revolution
For his latest offering, if you believe the press, Jon has plumbed
the depths of musical instruments and even created his own to
conjure a unique sound.
I’ll be honest, I can’t play a triangle so can certainly
not tell what a ‘down tuned snare drum’ or ‘undusted
scuzzy production values’ sound like.
I do know, however, what Useless Wooden Toys, sounds
like. It sounds like the girl you pick up despite knowing she’s
been with everyone else in town.
It’s dirty, raw, uncomplicated and it makes you go back
time and time again. There are no heart warming strings and no
romantic piano. There’s not even any trademark Kate Rogers
or Veba vocals.
All that said, Useless Wooden Toys doesn’t sound
astoundingly new or different.
Cut Up opens up with a dirty baseline and distorted
vocals. It’s a pleasant enough introduction.
Much better is You, You & You. Jon’s vocals
sail over the downbeat and the whole tune sounds like summer;
it is uplifting in the strangest way.
Brilliant, You, You & You is the tune I eagerly
In fact, it’s Jon’s vocals on We Milk Life But
Dress Smooth and Useless Wooden Toys that make them
the outstanding tracks.
They all feel like someone’s stripped the rubbishy bits
from a rock band and left the great backing track. Simple and
uncomplicated ditties that your head nods to.
I have to mention Save The People. This is a truly different
and outstanding moment on the album. It’s an eerie, twisted
ska track with Jon’s vocals reverberating across the top.
It comes as a surprise half way through the album and is unlike
anything else on Useless Wooden Toys - it just sounds
Heavyweight Freight sits uncontrollably like a fidgety
six-year-old. The beat bumps and jumps and never pauses for a
break, while the disjointed vocals, dance samples and guitars
remind me of Underworlds classic album, dubnobasswithmyheadman.
In fact, the whole feel of Useless Wooden Toys feels
like an updated 2005 bastard cousin of it. The only problem with
following dubnobasswithmyheadman, is you’ve got
one hell of an act to follow.
Tracks such as Sand People, Pick Up Sticks, The Beef, Lodestar,
All A Dream and Never Wed An Old Man are all good
tracks but the ear aches to hear Jon’s disjointed vocals
It’s sometimes the case that instrumentals are overshadowed
by vocal tracks and that’s the case here.
Useless Wooden Toys is a good album. Jon Kennedy’s
advanced his craft and the tracks he sings on make the album.
The others, well they’re good, but not that different or
dissimilar to his other offerings. I have to recommend this album,
it’s Jon Kennedy after all, but when you set the stakes
so high, your bound to disappoint.