What happens when you get a bunch of musicians from big name groups who feel the need to carry on in their own way and not live in the confines of said groups? Why, you get the Kickovers in this case. Formed by ex-Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert and rounded out with ex-Weezer Mikey Welsh, ex-Mike Ness Johnny Rioux and fellow ex-Bosstones Joe Sioris, the Kickovers are here to pretty much more or less repeat the dead horse ride that is power pop punk.
Hey, this disc sounded great the first couple of times it got played. But after that, the formulaic style and lack of any original direction left the album begging to be chucked into the Blink 182 soundalike pile. There are just too many bands doing this anymore, and the sound is as stale as any by the teen groups or new metal acts that have saturated our airwaves for the past few years. If “punk” is not dead, it soon will be thanks to the Pepsi-like flavors being dished out by labels of all shapes and sizes trying to cash in on the sound.
Of course, you also need the bands to make that gold bar sound, so we can’t really blame the labels themselves, although God knows over-saturation is the theme of the times. The Kickovers are not too unlike other groups trying to make headway in the pop punk genre, such as the Starting Line, and it must be said that these guys are better than that group, but whatever it is that defines “better” with this style is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a fifth chord, songs that don’t necessarily deal with teenage angst for 80% of the album, or just attitude. But so-called rock saviors like The Strokes and The Vines are squeaking by on supposed “attitude” as well, and there’s not much to say for their music, either.
Kicking off with the furiously noisy and short “I’m Plastic”, The Kickovers sound like they may well blow up your speakers, but by the second track, “Black and Blue”, you realize that this isn’t the case. In fact, this tune sounds like it was directly modeled after Blink’s “What’s My Age Again?” Never has there been a more obvious rip, but here you have it. And with opening lyrics such as “Yeah I know you leave me black and blue / But what the fuck am I supposed to do?” with the “fuck” over-emphasized, you begin to believe that this album is undoubtedly targeted towards the 16-year-olds who find release in such antics. And that’s great, but for anyone over 20, this stuff sounds downright marginal.
“Fake In Love” sports some good harmonies and winds up sounding like a tune that Target could co-opt into their next fab commercial. But again, the words are weak, taking off on the pithy “Don’t break it, just fake it baby / Now please won’t you lie to me, so I can lie to you?” while the expected power chords drop like flies all around the band. This mess is somewhat rectified by the sincerely pleasant “Put Me On”—the best song on the album—but after that, the sameness of Osaka really digs in and you’re left with nine more songs to sit through.
Careening between attempts at ballads (“Under You”) and attempts at fury (“Heart Attack”), nothing ever sticks like it seems like it should. Probably the most embarrassing moment on the album is “Crash and Burn”, in which the boys incorporate a pedal steel guitar and shoot for their moment of tender, open hearted sincerity. But it bombs miserably, crashing on the weak vocals and complete unintentional goofiness. And did I mention that there’s also a cover of Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone”? Yeah, you’ll want to give that one a pass as well.
My only question is, “Mikey Welsh left Weezer for this?” It’s hard to imagine The Kickovers lasting beyond this album. Weezer already has their next one ready to go, a great, established fan base, and whatever else comes with being in a group that is undoubtedly around for the long haul. Osaka will definitely perk some ears up and get a few kids to shell out their cash, but there’s nothing here that leaves a lasting impression. The Kickovers are capable at what they do, but then again McDonald’s is capable at making hamburgers.
// Notes from the Road
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