July 29, 2002

kilowatthours "the bright side"

Sometimes it takes a little while for genius to be recognized. Sometimes, time must pass between the creation and the present in order to really appreciate what an artist is trying to do. Nobody recognized Van Gough as a great artist until after his death. John Kennedy Toole's suicide came from justified feelings of failure. And who among us really appreciated the genius of (insert name of hipster-dropped obscure band who broke up two/five/twenty years before any kind of acclaim)?

Kilowatthour's The Bright Side is a record that didn't register a blip the first time I heard it. It just lightly entered my ears without making a single kind of rememberance. Was it because the music I heard at the time was un-unforgetable, or was it that I just wasn't really listening, or was it just boredom on my part? We could discuss the failings of yours truly, but I'd much rather tell you about The Bright Side. It's much more interesting than me, anyway.

I think what shut my ears to The Bright Side was due in large part to the opening song, "A How-To Book." If you've heard any number of "art-rock" records, you'll recognize those first few measures. That opening drum/guitar beat is to indie rock what "The Funky Drummer" is to hip-hop. Let it die, now, please! In fact, "A How-To Book" was the main turn-off, because it's your basic, standard indie-rock number that's been done to death. Things pick up on "Welcome to Orlando," if only a little, because, again, the taint of "been there, done that" bleeds into this number.

Things get interesting with the brief sonic blips of "Completely Normal," and the downbeat "Last Thursday," an acoustic number with blurry yet sad-sounding vocals. What makes this song interesting is that it sounds like Kilowatthours is hiding the fact that they want to be shoegazers, for "Last Thursday" gazes like the best of 'em.

Think you've got Kilowatthours pegged? "Almost Airtight" is yet another tempo and stylistic change, turning up the guitars for a louder, more melodic style, which is quickly traded in for an instrumental, the organ-driven "The Only Good Thing About Pollution" and the harder-rock of "Dancers and Acrobats." They shift back down to indie-rock on "In My Place," a number which only seems to work among the previously diverse tracks. More akin to the first two songs, had "In My Place" been placed at the beginning of the album, I might have written Kilowatthours off as yet another indie rock band.

With the closing, epic "Perfect Fool," you realize that you've just been taken on an interesting ride through rock music, and though you've heard these kinds of sounds before, you've never heard them quite as interesting as Kilowatthours. Soothing, gentle, tranquil--The Bright Side is all of these and more--much more interesting is the promise of an even brighter, more interesting future for these folks.

--Joseph Kyle

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