British trio and underground-pop extraordinaires Kero Kero Bonito returned with its first LP in two years, “Time ‘n’ Place.”
Before 2018, I had never come across Kero Kero Bonito’s music. The band’s “TOTEP” EP, released earlier this year, caught my attention with a concise and quirky blend of synth-pop and power pop. The EP’s second track, “Only Acting,” particularly resonated with me. The earwormy power pop-stub with noisy conclusions blended ’90s pop music tropes with distinctly modern approaches to production and songwriting. Accordingly, I began to look toward the group’s upcoming releases.
“Time ‘n’ Place” trails in the dreamy wake of “TOTEP,” as the band pulls from a variety of musical stylings and filters them through a lens of drowned-out, reverb-heavy production. Not only does this generate a consistently pleasant atmosphere, but also works a very established relationship between the trio’s aesthetic and sonic presentation. Kero Kero Bonito present themselves as a vignette of the most saccharine and colorful aspects of ’80s and ’90s popular culture, and their idiosyncratic blend of chip electronics and sweet melody embodies this effectively.
There is a child-like innocence to the band’s full-on robbery of the auditory and visual candy store, imbuing a genuine sentiment to the simple and straightforward collection of pop spread evenly among “Time ‘n’ Place” and its 12 tracks.
Drummer and keyboardist Gus Lobban handles production and does a fine job. Punchy drums, chirpy keys and shimmering synth effects combine for a slick 33 minutes. The guitars are a little flat and inorganic, which might have worked when the band operated in a primarily electronic sphere in previous efforts. Here, where pop and rock motifs reign supreme, this does not fly. Yet, thanks to this primarily lush mix, “Time ’n’ Place” is a very digestible effort.
And maybe that’s the rub. On the whole, I think that “Time ‘n’ Place” goes down a little too easily.
Sans “Only Acting,” “Make Believe,” and “Sometimes,” there’s not much here to write home about. Occasional moments of frankness and candor, proffered often on these cuts, fight to leave an impact through a mess of uninspired loose ends drawn from outside sources, leaving one incapable of a thorough listen. One song molds into another, distinguishable only by its track name.
Vocalist Sarah Midori Perry’s performance attributes to this. She can really steal the spotlight, and songs like “Make Believe” prove it. The pendulum-like, up-and-down on the hook’s vocal melody entrance the listener as she plays with tonal oddities dexterously. And wow, what a performance this is. Unfortunately, showings like this are the exception rather than the rule, and the album is otherwise weighed down by lackluster output behind the mic.
Unadventurous songwriting also pads the tracklist, as Kero Kero Bonito seldom stray from a ‘verse-chorus-verse’ structure that would only advantage an ambitious pallet of sonic inspiration. “Only Acting” is one lone exception that comes to mind, as this track incorporates harsh electronic glitches to segue from section to section, before an accumulation of these dissonant asides drown out the chorus. It’s really organic, like the disintegrated end of an analog recording.
For an album that blurs humanity and technology as often as “Time ‘n’ Place” does, this reminder of humanity qualifies a wholly spectacular song.
On the bright side, the LP only carries on for just over 30 minutes, and does not overstay its welcome as a dulcet passing-of-time that is as agreeable as it is unmemorable.
“Time ‘n’ Place” sees Kero Kero Bonito sweep its musical choice cuts onto the cutting room floor, presenting the swept-up debris as its product. In turn, its sophomore full-length LP makes for a pleasant listen, but only if you don’t listen to closely. Beyond aesthetic pleasantry, there is not much here.
Listen to instead: “Psychocandy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985), “Antisocialites” by Alvvays (2017)
Let’s revisit: I looked back at my “Egypt Station” review, and its score was generous. Let’s be honest, that album was a 2/5 at best. “Fuh You” is obnoxiously bad.
William Newbegin, ’21, is an associate sports editor and columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]