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KEN Mode | ‘Success’

Oh boy. The band that threatened to bring the house down with their last album have really gone and done it now.

It was always clear that they would – so punishing was their instinctive groove and their sheer energy levels.

What’s different, and better, about KEN Mode now is that vocalist Jesse Matthewson has abandoned all sense of self restraint. Basically, he’s gone postal, and the fact that it’s captured on record is fantastic.

What we have here is a driven, grungey-bass rock out that benefits from the fantastic warmth and authenticity of a Steve Albini production. And as for the music, it references everything from King Crimson to Captain Beefheart to Slint to Unsane.

Belew The Waterline

Where Jesse put in a good if screechy performance on the last album, this time he’s full on mental – like a madcap, American Psycho lunatic.

He begins the album in a manner very similar to King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, rabbiting on as if from a pulpit, or at the very least, a second hand car sales lot.

In this single track he descends in to a deranged lunatic doing Something Very Bad that I wont describe here, but which is incendiary on record.

Probably the album’s highlight is next, in the form of the awesomely named ‘These Tight Jeans’. It’s an absolutely pumping, driving, hook filled track strewn with awesome lyrical observations that culminate in an definitively killer chorus.

The band are backed up by a lady in the background admonishing ‘this certainly was not well planned’, and it’s catchy as anything. The band have described it thus:

“These Tight Jeans is a post punk-rock tribute to the absolute insanity of the ‘hater’ culture that plagues the media, social networking, and our daily lives as human beings alive in 2015. The first line of the song says it all: “I would like to learn how to kill the nicest man in the world”.

Stop disrespecting each other and go run a marathon, do some push-ups, read a book, create something: get a life. Life’s too short. Guest vocals by our friend Jill Clapham, and channels plenty of feel from 80’s post punk and garage rock coupled with our usual bite.”

That’s it in a nutshell. It’s a cracker.

After that the album goes down several tangents. ‘The Owl’ sounds like Blur’s ‘Parklife’ reinterpreted through a sort of Mudhoney prism, while ‘I Just Liked Fire’ sounds like it could have been straight off their last and higher octane record.

Management Control

The start of a slide into more reflective songwriting – and something that might hint at a future direction – begins with ‘Management Control’, and it’s the first of several that betray the huge influence of Slint on this band’s music.

Again, the lyrical diatribe here is excellent, well penned and acute in its observations.

‘A Passive Disaster’ has a bass and drum groove with a bit of Wil Haven’s ‘Carpe Diem’ about it, alongside a bit of Unsane’s pulse.

To close we have ‘Dead Actors’, and it must be said that this is an all out tribute to Slint’s epochal ‘Spiderland’. It can be none other, the way those harmonics ring and slowly chime over that rumbly bass. Even the vocals are delivered in the ruminative, disenchanted style of Brian McMahan.

And that’s your lot.

KEN Mode have pushed outside of their comfort zone and right into your personal space with this album, and it’s rich with so much music and lyrical challenge.

“What was the last thing you’ve done that mattered?” they ask in ‘Dead Actors’, and you cant help getting weighed down with the demand as its in your earphones. The ennui of it all is intoxicating.

Aside from its lofty if greasy neck lyrical observations its an at times pounding and at times digressive rock record that deserves your immediate and total attention.

To wit: hear it now.

4.3/ 5 – Earl Grey ::: 18/06/15

  1. Surprised no discussion of this had appeared on the forum. Have been listening to it since just before their recent London show. It’s got some great immediate bits but also rewards repeated listens. Another review said it was a great record but just not a metal record, which I agree with, can’t wait to catch them live again.

  2. Only really ever listened to Venerable by them. This sounds a lot different than that record, dare I say almost in the same direction as Kylesa? Maybe less psychedelic but it certainly reminds me off them. Will definitely give this some attention over the next few weeks.

  3. earl grey Says:

    Kylesa is a definite line on that track, yes. But across its span its a very much more diverse album.

  4. Standuppaul Says:

    My album of the year thus far.

    Worth point out CT, that it’s Eugene from Oxbow sounding like a lunatic at the end of Blessed. Not that that fact remotely takes away from Jessie’s unhinged performance. I think saying he’s gone postal sums it up brilliantly.

    Their show at Temples is probably my joint gig of the year too (along with Will Haven two days earlier at the same festival). Would love to see them again soon, now that I know this album more. They closed with Dead Actors at Temples, with Jessie playing most of it in/on the crowd.


  5. open face surgery Says:

    Started listening to this a few weeks back. Wasn’t too keen but will give it another blast at some stage. Same as Skanmar, I’m only familiar with Venerable, which is animal. Savage live the time I saw them as well.

  6. Was listening to this at the weekend. It’s great. I got a bit of a black flag buzz off the vocals. They were threatening to go this way on entrench but this is much better.

  7. sounds savage. great band. have very hazy of seeing them live a few years ago

  8. One of the highlights of Temples, amazing energy, Cant wait to give this a spin

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