March 11, 2004

Kid Icarus "Maps of the Saints"

I've never bought into the notion of 'outsider art'. It's a bit too insulting, too snooty, too much of a 'well, this art isn't made by people like us, the realartist' vibe. Let's not even address the issue that it's terribly patronizing. Isn't the production of art enough of a qualification to be deemed an artist? Though the term's one that's used for the more formal art/painting world, it's one that's been applied to the music world by default. Artists like Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, the Shaggs or the Kids Of Whitney High might be considered 'outsider musicians' because they made music that's too weird for most listeners, but that doesn't make them less of an artist.

Kid Icarus is band led by Eric Schlittler, a young man who's obviously inspired by one particularly renowned 'outsider artist', Jandek. Maps of the Saints was their debut record, released back in 1999, but has been reissued because of increased interest in the band. Remixed and remastered and trimmed down to a brief 45 minutes, Maps of the Saints is very much a debut record; it's rough and slippery and loose and all of those things that would normally be complaints. Lo-fi doesn't always make a record less good; sometimes the lower-quality fidelity makes for more interesting music, and that's certainly the case with Kid Icarus.

I can't tell you what it is, but there's a magical spark to Kid Icarus' music, one that draws me in and makes me smile. In between the poorly-recorded rockers--which, on songs like "Women In Films" and "Laughing Skeletons," actually transcend the messy mixing--and the odd ballads like "Ice Queen," "Your Photograph" or "Kafka Song" is the bright spark of optimism, a big smile, and the realization that Schlittler is having a good time and is utterly sincere. Though Schlittler isn't really upsetting the house that Guided By Voices built--there's the obvious influence--he is decorating it quite nicely with hints of the Beatles, Daniel Johnston and Half Japanese, and I even hear a bit of Camper Van Beethoven on here, too.

Some might be frustrated by Maps of the Saints, and I'd like to think that Schlittler and company have grown tremendously since this record. There's nothing more magical about those magical debut records, and Maps of the Saints is a nice, albeit typical, bedroom record. Kid Icarus makes me smile in that weird little way, and that's enough evidence for me to say that this is a worthy record.

--Joseph Kyle

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