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No Kids

Come Into My House

(Tomlab; US: 19 Feb 2008; UK: 17 Mar 2008)

Deceptively monikered, No Kids are actually pretty much down with them. Though their geeky attire on the press material paints their three members (each formerly a quarter of indie-pop foursome P:ano) as studious schoolteachers, less than ten minutes into this, their debut, they extend an unexpected olive branch to modern day R&B. And as the typical plucked-string melody and salty croon of “The Beaches All Closed” continues into “Bluster in the Air” and beyond, there’s refreshingly few tongues in cheeks, the tone appreciative, if playful, rather than ironic.


But this organic, skewed representation of a genre that characteristically—in the mainstream at least—covets the bling and the brash, by people who patently don’t, is just one facet of Come Into My House‘s diverse, but steadfastly natural, sound. Opener “Great Escape” is a laid-back, piano-led affair, lent sheen by the discourse of mingling brass and string sections, while “For Halloween” sees No Kids’ trio of multi-instrumentalists defy the autumnal implications of its title with inappropriately sunny melodies and incandescent vocal harmonies. And so by its mid-point, Come Into My House has already shown itself to be such a sonic selection-box that it comes as no surprise when, on “Four Freshmen Locked Out as the Sun Goes Down”, No Kids try their hand at Barbershop.


Records of this ilk usually go one of two ways, ending up, in their bid to avoid taking up residence in any pigeonhole, either gloriously diverse or choppily contrived. Happily, No Kids skate far closer to the former than the latter. Indeed, because of their consistent predilection for organic instrumentation—piano, brass and strings make up their primary modus operandi—the trio come across not as a band veering wildly from one style to another in a bid to defy convention and harbour originality, but rather one who delight in reinventing various genres and musical approaches in their own peculiar way. What’s more, their laurels don’t rest on any self-conscious notions of eccentric indie idiosyncrasy. In fact, the two crowning moments of Come Into My House are unashamedly pop, with the exuberant “For Halloween” making a persuasive bid for a single release, and “Neighbour’s Party” basking in a glut of progressively euphoric melodies. 


And yet, while Come Into My House is easy to like, there’s something frustrating about it that makes it difficult to love. For all its genre-spanning, it lacks a certain cutting edge to instill it with a sense of vitality. Nick Krgovich’s understated, mousy purr, though perfectly suited to the casual, welcomingly sophisticated closer “The Puddle”, has at times a meek timidity that means elsewhere genuine emotion is elusive. Though the disconsolate “Dancing in the Sticks” is actually an exception to this criticism, its knowing rhetorical inquiry of “What good’s a song / When my heart’s a sleeping giant / That won’t come too?” inadvertently highlights this. It’s as if, in their referencing of R&B’s rhythmic qualities, they’ve inadvertently picked up a bit of its coldness, too. It speaks volumes, for instance, that the album’s most memorable and affecting moments are those, such as on the boisterous refrain of “Neighbour’s Party”, where Krgovich is joined by Julia Chirka to assemble vocal harmonies together.


But the energy of the instrumental arrangements here are enough to carry the bulk of Come Into My House‘s twelve cuts to satisfactory ends, even if they are lacking in emotional handlebars to grip on to. And if there is at times a disconnected impersonality to Krgovich’s vocal stylings, it is at odds with warmth of the compositional framing, which thanks to the band’s choice of instrumentation and production exudes an crisp, natural quality. Their name might sound purpose-built to discourage, but No Kids’s debut release, while not as vital as it could have been, is still as inviting as its title suggests.

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