Review Summary: A concerted effort to rock up their pop-punk sound pays dividends for Kisschasy, as their 2nd album contains little filler and impressive highlight tracks.
On Kisschasy’s 2005 debut full-length release ‘United Paper People’, they threatened to bring Australian pop-punk to mainstream audiences with the aptly titled lead single ‘Do-Do’s & Whoa-Oh’s’. Despite the album deservedly earning the young quartet a fervent fanbase, it didn’t exactly storm the charts, even if it showed the potential that the band could very well do so in the future. Come follow-up ‘Hymns for the Nonbeliever’, Kisschasy use a number of strategies in order to achieve greater success… And they may very well have pulled it off too.
The first method used is to change their musical style a little. The underlying pop-punk aesthetics still remain on the majority of tracks, but there is clearly a concerted effort to rock up their sound. This is especially the case when it comes to the significantly thicker and louder guitars heard on a number of cuts. The drumming of Karl Ammitzboll also hits harder, especially on insistent tracks ‘The Factory’ and ‘To Death’. However, more often than not, the band successfully balances this harder edge with their trademark catchy choruses and impressive hooks.
Of course, the key to achieving appeal amongst the masses is at least one big hit. While only the lead single snuck into the Australian Top 10, all received significant airplay. This was especially on music television since many of the music videos were to some extent humorous. Difficult to dislike 3rd single ‘Strings and Drums’ carries over that fun and carefree nature to the song itself, while the slower 4th single ‘Ugly Birds In a Beautiful Cage’ builds up impressively to be another album highlight.
While it may initially be the entertaining video (including the band causing havoc while wearing the masks of world leaders) and hooky package that is most noticeable about lead single ‘Opinions Wont Keep You Warm At Night’, one will eventually realize that the title of the song is not a throwaway comment. In fact, they are very defensive towards critics in general with lines such as “Jealousy tears you apart, I’m sorry that I can’t help the way you are, that we do the things you can’t”, before later proclaiming “We are everything you wish you were” and “I will never let the bitter things you say get to me”.
While those reactive lyrics may suggest the band have yet to mature, they are put together in a fashion which points to the opposite being closer to the truth. This is further proven on tidbit lines here and there throughout the LP, as well as the indie-scenester mocking 2nd single ‘Spray On Pants’. Laced with cynical humor such as “she speaks with a British accent and the keyboard is her favorite instrument” and “he is learning the tambourine, he tells his band that’s what they’re missing”, it is another likeable cut (as long as you are not one of those indie-scenesters of course).
Elsewhere on ‘Hymns For The Nonbeliever’, songs may not astound but there is a sufficient amount of variation that has been assisted by the subtle shift away from straight-out pop-punk. Opener ‘The Perfect Way To Meet’ acts as an effective bridge between the two albums, while penultimate track ‘My Bible In A Scrapbook’ goes so far as to combine hard-rock and grunge with its thick bass-line, distorted vocals and ominous sounding riff. Meanwhile, the 3 closest songs to ballads (‘Ugly Birds…’, ‘Real and Untouched’ & ‘Ghost’) may be slower, but they are still punchy meaning they are not as prone to being generic. The generally more aggressive vocal delivery (relative to the debut) means 23 year old Darren Cordeux’s often-criticized voice (read: accent) is more varied, and therefore its distinctive qualities become more of a strength than a weakness.
While the approaches may be different, the gap between both of Kisschasy’s full-length releases is not all that wide. In fact, a valid argument could be made for either ‘United Paper People’ or ‘Hymns For The Nonbeliever’ being slightly more effective than the other. Personally, I would have to give the nod to the latter since it exhibits growth, contains less filler than its predecessor, and has the stronger highlight tracks. There are still things to work on for Kisschasy, but if they can improve in these areas, do not be surprised if they soon become one of Australia’s most popular bands!
Recommended Tracks: Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night, Strings and Drums, Ugly Birds In A Beautiful Cage & Spray On Pants.