Review Summary: Moody, yet full of character and charm; In Gold Blood is an aquired taste that's well worth your time
With two successful releases under their belts prior to this release, Kids In Glass Houses are relatively well known and established, at least in the UK. Their real breakthrough was Dirt, an album absolutely stuffed with anthems and hooks, yet marred by its repetitive tendencies. Some might find it odd, however, that after an album that brought the band commercial success and exposure, that they felt a change in sound and appearance was necessary.
Having toured with the likes of You Me At Six for months and years on end, KIGH have finally thrown in the towel and released something that has obviously been approached with cautiona and care. In Gold Blood doesn't play like a pop-punk album, nor does it really try to be. Instead, the band have opted for what Aled (lead singer) described as a 'more grown up record'. The songs feel darker than expected and this in turn makes the album not as easy to listen to as previous work from the band.
The real calling card for KIGH here is the albums sound. It's clear that there has been a sole focus on instrumentation and a layered sound. From the very beginning of the album, the bass riff that is used in title track Gold Blood is so low and gritty, it demands your attention. The subtle use of electronics in the album also play a part in its distinctive sound, which again is experimentation. In fact, the whole band works well as a machine. Aleds vocals are powerful and unique, a quality he has always carried. The guitar work isn't special or intricate by any means, but it still holds the sound together and definitely gives the record atmosphere.
They haven't completely scrapped their ideology. Some songs on the record do nod back to efforts of old, such as Not In This World and Animals. Both these tracks have a redeeming feature in the way of gang vocals and catchy-as-hell choruses and for many KIGH fans, these songs will probably be the highlights of the album. However, Only The Brave Die Free is a much more refined affair written in hope that listeners will latch onto the subtext of the lyrics which on first review, offer an opinion on the world and the state it's in. Teenage Wonderland sounds like a typical song about reminiscing, but it has an underlying tone that sounds like a thank you to an old friend for great times and hoping for more in the future.
Diamond Days is a phenomenal track that really does encapsulate the efforts the band have put into this album. The synth at the beginning, Aleds vocals, the lyric theme: it's definitely the song that you will remember this album for and is one of the songs that works well live.
The only gripe I can muster, is one that might not even exist. The band have called this a concept album, that 'documents a journey'. I've always found concept albums awkward to listen to, but not through the fault of the band themselves...I just sometimes struggle to see the concept that's being attempted. I always appreciate thought being put into track listing and order, but when I can see the storyline being weaved through an album, I ignore it anyway and just listen to the album as I listen to any other album: a collection of songs.
Kids In Glass Houses made a huge risk making this record. They made their songs less catchy, harder to relate to and changed their sound, but it's all for the better. While it boasts better song writing and a dusty, darker sound , it still retains some of the pop-punk magic that was embedded into Dirt and Smart Casual. While this album was not the commercial success that Roadrunner thought it would have been, the band can call this a huge victory on their part.