Winterkids: Memoirs

WinterKids may be the quintessential definition of the British indie band -- but are they any good?



Label: Columbia
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import
Japan release date: 2007-03-12

WinterKids sound very British. I mean, James Snider, the young frontman of this young new band, sounds very British. The band itself rides a wave of popular music from the last ten years from both their native UK and America and comes out sounding contemporary, if not particularly new or exciting.

"Tape It" aside, there's little reason to have heard of (or care about) WinterKids. At least that song, which popped up last autumn around some of the Brit-based music blogs, shows an easy command of all these various influences. The elements of new wave, mainstream indie pop, and pop-punk fall easily into place, and the silliness of the lyrics only contributes to the sham. As the fuller keyboards and spastic drums propel the track forwards, something about getting home to tape a TV show is rendered utterly charming. For some, this charm will be enough to propel the band to best-of-moment status; but as a whole Memoirs is a little slip-shod to come through on the promise.

You'll notice early that there's a giant hovering over WinterKids' shoulders, and it's a little London band called Bloc Party. The band will be called Bloc Party Lite, and there's no point fighting the label -- they really do share a number of obvious similarities, especially to the larger band's more recent material. The accented delivery, incessant guitar jangle, and songs built on repetitive loops are all there -- but WinterKids have transformed that sound firmly into the pop arena. The drums are turned way up, with keyboards and guitars minimized in the mix, so that even though there are some simple polyphonies, the effect is mainly just jangle in the background.

And though they give the impression, with their minimal witticisms, of being solidly indie, it becomes obvious fairly soon that WinterKids are, above all, informed by popular tropes. So "All the Money" comes over as sub-Art Brut; the difference is repetition of the WinterKids song doesn't provide additional meaning. Instead, what emerges is a striking similarity to pop-punk bands like Blink 182 or even Good Charlotte. "Adore", as an example, sounds like Maximo Park without the venom, or conversely Field Music without the integrity. These songs are catchy enough, but the trick of choppy verse/drawn-out chorus comes to feel cheapened after we have heard it over and over again.

They do try to mix things up a few times, but the success is only variable. The contribution to vocals of keyboardist Hannah Snider on "Who Am I Kidding?" is a game move, but misses the mark -- despite the change in texture, the chord and melodic progression are just too familiar. "Somebody Else's Clothes" comes across as a more primitive, British Death Cab for Cutie, its slow-build of strings well-trod before now. Slightly more effective is closer "Playing Cards with Gingerbread" -- while the ideas aren't fully worked out, the immaturity is somehow infectious, and that's exactly what WinterKids should be aiming for.

So the group have a little way to go before they'll really be a threat to charts anywhere. At times, it's clear that WinterKids have the exuberance, at least. Unfortunately, as a whole Memoirs is too patchy to take full advantage of that youthful energy. Apart from "Tape It" and a handful of other tracks, the rest of this average debut are take-it-or-leave-it, that's all.


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