Photo: Courtesy of the artist via Bandcamp

Kiwi Jr.’s Debut ‘Football Money’ Is an Indie Pop Gem

Kiwi Jr.'s Football Money is a jangly, sugar-coated, charming debut album destined to be cherished by indie pop/rock fans of all stripes.

Football Money
Kiwi Jr.
17 January 2020

Confidently channeling the slacker ethos of Pavement, uptempo guitars of the Strokes, the English mod revival of the Jam, the sweeping jangle pop of R.E.M., and the nerdy rock sensibilities of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Kiwi Jr.‘s Football Money carves out its rightful place among the most satisfying indie rock debut albums of recent memory.

What separates Kiwi Jr. from these noted indie rock and power pop influences is the palpable sense that this band are having more fun playing their brand of pop. Kiwi Jr. offer melodious vocal harmonies and sweeping Rickenbacker lead guitar sound. They also incorporate folk stylings (“Murder in the Cathedral”), surf-inflected hooks (“Leslie”), and the Weezer-reminiscent geek rock samplings of “Football Money”. Football Money enthusiastically blends delicious, sun-drenched pop-rock with endearing lyrics showcasing an exclusive, idiosyncratic Toronto mythology that brings an eclectic group of plebeians out of the shadows and into the foreground of its playful tapestry of catchy tunes.

With ten tracks clocking in at just under 30 minutes, Football Money coherently stitches together a slew of tracks that could easily stand alone as singles without overstaying their welcome for a minute. The product of two years off and on labor, the album serves as a love letter to working-class heroes. It celebrates performers who pour all they have into their workday only to give it all they have once again at the local gig while friends and onlookers slug down their cheap beers in tiny, crowded, sweaty, dimly-lit bars. The result is an accessible, addictive batch of college rock tunes for record shop eccentrics and average show-goers alike.

Thriving in their embrace of 1960s rock and 1980s/1990s indie pop, their absorption of canonical pop culture references, and their mastery of nearly every classic guitar effect under the sun, Kiwi Jr.’s biggest strength is their songwriting chops. Skimming the surface of the personal lives of a unique cast of coming-of-age Canadian characters, Kiwi Jr.’s lyrics explore the pleasures and pains of growing up and moving on with work and art, all without losing sight of the record’s crisp, feel-good energy. The record isn’t without its moments of cloudy reflection.

Take “Salary Man” where singer Jeremy Gaudet reflects over a mid-tempo jangle pop riff, “I look back on all the times when I was rude or unkind to someone just trying to help me. So often there’s no time to think. I know my body. I vomit into the sink, and that’s okay. I am a salaryman.” A relatable, workaday reflection that elevates the mundane to a state of crystalline pop clarity.

“This is the city where I live. These are the friends that I have made,” Gaudet sings in a tone reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus, Jonathan Richman, and even pioneers of the nascent CBGB punk scene at the beginning of “Swimming Pool”. It’s a track that references the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones while also possibly nodding subtly to the Swimming Pool Q’s A&M years, musicians and bands with whom Kiwi Jr. share an affinity. One gets the impression that the band are performing at a private basement show surrounded by friends, enemies, drunks, and unsung heroes. With Football Money, Kiwi Jr. are sure to bring out some new friends at gigs in 2020 and far beyond.

RATING 8 / 10