Music

Winterkids: Memoirs

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


WinterKids

Memoirs

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

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.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image