There is something about Kiwi Jr. that is hard to ignore. They sound like a mixture of all the best bits of R.E.M., The Kinks, The Strokes, The Modern Lovers, Pavement and Lou Reed, but considering bassist Brian Murphy is in Alvvays this shouldn’t be surprising.
What is surprising is how uncluttered the songs are. Each one is filled to the rafters with deliriously catchy riffs, but their debut album ‘Football Money’ is filled with enough space to let the song breath and not feel jumbled.
Single ‘Leslie’ is a total banger. As the guitars jingle around we are swept away on a sea of euphoria, but after a few listens you start to get what the song is about. A story of college dropouts, police entanglements and sleeping your life away on sofas.
And this is what Kiwi Jr. do incredibly well. They hid their true intentions in plain sight and cover dark and lurid tales with a blanket of power- pop.
The star of the show is ‘Nothing Changes’. Here the band really let rip at their rivals and the modern world. Lyrics like "Everything is out of my price range...", "Digital skeletons crawling out of your mac book...", "Everyone roll their eyes in unison..." and "This boy knows I hate his band / Everyone looked like a lumberjack..." are as cutting as they’re funny. But they make you wince as much as giggle.
Musically ‘Nothing Changes’ is a jangle power-pop gem. Album closer ‘Wicked Witches’ is what Lou Reed might have sounded like if he’d emerged in 2019. Chugging guitars are underpinned by delirious keyboards, giving the song a melancholy feel, and ending the album on reflective mood.
After listening to ‘Modern Football’ you are stuck by how catchy the whole thing is. The guitar riffs are the ideal mixture of jangle pop and post-punk. They immediately get lodged in your head, but there is an undercurrent of malice that sets Kiwi Jr. apart from their peers. But the stars of each song are the lyrics. There is an observational, almost Douglas Coupland feel to them that comes from not just living in the modern world but knowing out how it works. Much like characters in Coupland novels, Kiwi Jr. have an intelligence that exceed their Mac Jobs but they aren’t smart-arse enough to come off as grating.
‘Football Money’ is one of those rare albums that gets better the more you play it as all those wonderful throw-away lines - “Stacking up records and setting it straight...” and “Sold your soul to saxophone Joe...” - get lodged in your head until the next one knocks it out.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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