Review Summary: The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left is an extravagance that Kiss Kiss revels in, and the reaction will all depend on whether or not the listener is willing to go along for the ride. So, why not tag along?
For a second on The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
, it appears that Kiss Kiss has gone decidedly tame. On their debut LP Reality Vs. The Optimist
, one could recognize two distinct aesthetics; one being a delightfully wacky deconstruction of standard form that led to welcome indulgences in asymmetrical time signatures and hyper tempos, the other a sensible take on baroque pop that, although at times ridiculously catchy, lacked some of the depth that made tracks in the other vein stick. “The Best Mistake” opens The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
in the latter, with lead vocalist Josh Benash reintroducing his definitive sigh/singing over safe instrumentation. Without a tangible chorus, the song slowly builds in its melancholy and concrete definition. Drums pound, violins sprawl, and Benash’s quivering falsetto delivery of cryptic verses endears despite the confusion. The track is brief; it doesn’t quite reach three minutes before it hits a final sustained chord that hardly feels like a conclusion at all, wetting appetites for the record to come. As an introduction, “The Best Mistake” listens something like a pallet cleanser, making the magnificent chaos caged in The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
all the more delicious.
The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
expands upon what Reality Vs. The Optimist
said with the precision of a band with a firm grip on their identity. Without sacrificing melody or common sense, Kiss Kiss fully embrace the eccentricities that made Reality
a criminally unnoticed gem two years ago. The middle of the record finds the band tinkling random notes on toy pianos, paralleling unheard of melodies in half tones, insistently hammering their bang-bang-bangbangbang take on 7/8, and dropping it all at their convenience for a gorgeous, accessible chorus. A neat trick for a few tracks, except everything just described happens in one fucking song
. Of course, similar peculiarities worm their way into practically every other track off The Meek
, so there’s no use in spoiling all the fun by describing each and every oddity. One of the things inherently vital to a record such as The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
is its flair for surprise, and Kiss Kiss’ cheeky humor does more than supply the goods, providing equal parts prog intrigue and sheer entertainment value.
Kiss Kiss display a remarkable talent for blending experimental noodling with a home base of grandiose pop that affords the group opportunities to do whatever the hell they want, which they take full advantage of, invoking Kid A
on mid album interlude “IIIIIIII” and dicking around for 8 minutes at the end of “Virus” (note: “dicking around” is meant in the most affectionate of ways). However, the few moments where they return to that base make for some of the most charming moments on the record. For an album so keen on shocking with a “what’ll they think up next?” barrage of elements, it is tracks like “Hate” the penultimate “If They Only Knew” that provide the distinct highlights. Both songs are accessible (by Kiss Kiss standards), “Hate” sounding like a showtune and featuring the infamous “eastern-european flavor” that is an obligatory mention in any Kiss Kiss review, “If They Only Knew” being the album’s ballad, a rival to Reality Vs. The Optimist
’s “Stay the Day.” Opening with Benash’s engagingly worn tenor whispering over menacing piano, “If They Only Knew” builds like “The Best Mistake” did at the beginning of the record, except everything is done better and with much more power considering the attack of the album preceding it. It’s definitely “normal,” but this makes it easy to grasp onto, and makes The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
just as impressive as its predecessor. It shows Kiss Kiss can play up both their experimental and beautiful sides, and mix them together with fantastic results.
The album’s defining moment is undoubtedly the finisher, “Virus.” Opening like a ballad, but always maintaining a queer eeriness about it, “Virus” mixes the experimental attitude of the beginning of the record with the power of Kiss Kiss’ best songs. The first six minutes are as sad the record gets, with a minor-key waltz underscoring a violin and Benash moaning “Your body screams like I do”
before the track crescendos into a climactic pummeling of dissonance and yearning. It’s exactly what makes Kiss Kiss special; despite everything they do that can dissuade one from liking them, at the end of the record, it’s impossible to not get swept up in their whirlpool of violins and crash cymbals, and when the album devolves into Benash’s voice being looped backwards for minutes on end, there’s enough good faith to wait and see where Kiss Kiss go with it. It’s a fuck
ed up ending that somehow becomes deliriously beautiful over the orchestral chords and mechanical drum machine, and fades out without so much as an apologetic flair, which is exactly how it should be. This is why “Virus” embodies the spirit of The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left
so much; it’s an extravagance that Kiss Kiss revels in, and the reaction will all depend on whether or not the listener is willing to go along for the ride. So, why not tag along?