Kelly’s Heels are actually a new band in name only. Originally forming out of a British group called the Ashes, Kelly’s Heels was invited back to New York’s International Pop Overthrow in the late ‘90s. The group has released four under-the-radar albums and they’ve continued a power pop/pop punk/every other power pop punk tradition to develop into a fine, hook-filled trio. This album takes the best of the band’s first three albums and throws them together. So while there might be some duller moments on 1997’s Gone Off Pop?!?, 1999’s Blunt Cut, and 2002’s Bent Over Backwards, there is nary a filler on this 19-track album that features some remixes and demos. Comparisons to the Beatles, Kinks, and Lovin’ Spoonful are cited, but there is more happy-go-lucky summer pop à la the Beach Boys on the frantic “Sabrina”. “The pedestal they made for her / The clothes that they parade for her / Are nothing that she’s after / And they just don’t understand”, sings lead singer Bob Kelly, before a catchy, jangle-soaked guitar takes over. Fans of early Costello and Sloan should enjoy this primer, which comes complete with hands claps and McCartney-esque head shakes.
“Don’t Get Me Started” tones the record down and is tighter and more precise, relying on the rhythm section to steer the song. It also adheres to the tradition of most ‘60s-era songs in that it says all it needs to say in just over two minutes, with Kelly giving some great vocals as a tambourine works double-time in the chorus. Ditto for “Tell Me If It’s Over”, a song that seems to be ripped from “The Guide to Sugar-Coated Power Pop Vol. 1”. When Kelly and company take the album into a softer pop mold on “You Don’t Know Her”, it’s moderately successful, but it’s also a song they could probably do in their sleep. Kelly’s Heels would be the perfect band if Tom Hanks lived in Sydney and decided to do a second That Thing You Do! film, judging by the cheery and grin-inducing “The Easy Way”. Here the band finds a gem of a hook and squeezes everything out of it.
“She Knows”, which Kely describes in the liner notes as a song about “non-celebrity stalking,” doesn’t stray from their brand of pop, although it tends to be harder than almost everything else thus far, barring “The Easy Way”. This is the point when you realize that what you’ve heard in the first half is a good indication of what you’ll hear in the second half, remixes and demos aside. “Can You Count the Stars” is yet another summer driving tune that breezes in as quickly as it fades out, Kelly’s Heels packing as much into the 150 seconds as they can. Speaking of fade outs, the ballad-based, mid-tempo “Faded Out” is more in line with the Lovin’ Spoonful and a dash of Eric Burdon wearing out his welcome with the Animals. It’s back to a straightforward, non-fat power pop model on “Making Me Go On”, which resembles an overseas version of Gin Blossoms. “Light in the Dark” has some psychedelic flair, but seems par for the course on this record.
Most pop bands have a hard time performing these type of songs without either being overtly repetitive or losing the excitement in some cases. But this label, much like Jeremy Morris’s Jam Recordings, intends to give these bands as much exposure as possible. And if they’re as talented as Kelly’s Heels, they have little to worry about. The band hit the homestretch with a soft “Kitten Heels” that has Kelly’s warbled vocals resembling a spry Tiny Tim in the opening verse. “Small a” has large amounts of jangle and one song tends to blend into the other by this point. Although I assume the band’s name is a play on words (Achilles’ Heel?), they have very few weaknesses.