Okay, prepare for a bit of rock-critic sermonizing. Ready? Good. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a lot of good middle-of-the-road rock being marginalized by both the indie world and the world of alt-rock radio, and dammit, it sucks. Bands that aren’t obscure enough get the cold shoulder from the indie kids, and bands that don’t strictly follow the formula are ignored by the mainstream. The result? Bands that don’t fit in either scene end up in musical Limbo; sometimes they’re lucky enough to get ghettoized as “emo,” but even that sub-genre has become stratified and formulaic lately, and really doesn’t mean much as a whole.
So, what does that have to do with The Killingtons (who aren’t, just to get it out of the way, a ska band in any way, shape, or form)? These guys are part of the new school of pop-rock bands, exemplified by folks like Jimmy Eat World and Samiam, who aren’t afraid to dig out their own little niche between the two musical domains. Inevitably, the “emo” underground and mainstream rock are converging more and more, and in the process borrowing sounds from one another and evolving; a little Police melody here, an odd-sounding Archers of Loaf guitar bit there.
Take The Killingtons’ music as a prime example of the combination—raging, complex indie-rock guitars, insightful lyrics, and punk intensity, married to poppy melodies, a heavy dose of unjaded romanticism, and almost arena rock-style production. There are elements of a lot of different bands and styles on here, from The Cure to Sunny Day Real Estate; Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine are as much touchstones as Husker Du. “All My Friends Are Vampires” and “Belly Dancer” are catchy, fast-burning rock songs, nicely balanced out by the beautiful swirling Britpop of “Ninety Three” and “Bent.” Heck, “Balladovie” is a sparkling, ethereal ballad (with even a little of Jeremy Enigk’s solo album thrown in for the shine), and the band follows it up with “Staring at Concrete,” a track that starts slow and delicate but then cranks up the amplifiers and turns into one of the better songs the Smashing Pumpkins never wrote.
It’s coming near the best of both worlds, at least for people like me, who love lots of thick, overdriven guitars blasting through sweet melodies and pretty harmonizing, but who happen to find the lyrics of your average “Buzz” band to be roughly on the level of bad 4th grade poetry. Is The Killingtons perfect? Not quite; I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s sappy (see “In Memory”)...but sometimes it’s pretty brilliant, as well.