Review Summary: Orchestral Punk band's proper debut meets high expectations.
If Kiss Kiss’s sound on Reality Vs. The Optimist
was to be compared to an animal of some kind; the animal would most certainly be the house cat, preferably a black house cat. Like the cat, Kiss Kiss’s sound is pretty, mysterious and sleek. Combing some of the more accessible elements of Punk, Experimental and Indie, their music is dark and unpredictable and, when compared with all other house pets, the cat is as well. It should also be noted that the cat is my favorite of all house pets. But, to all of the folks who read my last Kiss Kiss review, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise I like Reality Vs. The Optimist, the band’s proper debut. After all, Kiss Kiss’s sound hasn’t changed all that much since their self-titled EP was released. Not that there is any reason it should have. There are, however, reasons not to like Reality Vs. The Optimist quite as much.
For one, there probably isn’t anything on Reality that stands up to the genius of the EP’s Says My Doctor
. The tracks are a little more straight forward in general, sticking to a more Punkish route and leaving out many of the smooth, beautiful Indie/Experimental-esque elements that initially made me smitten with the band’s sound. Of course, this straight-forward, more Rockin’ side of the band has its upsides too. Likewise, Reality Vs. The Optimist has some pretty fu
cking good songs. The Cats in Your House
, for example, is just about as good as anything on the original EP. The song is very piano heavy, with choruses laden with keyboard pounding and violin noises. After some quick verse-chorus-verse flirtings the song erupts into a bridge of ravenous distorted bass, and later into a violin driven outro.
While some tracks on Reality take a more conventional route, like album opener Janet
, with its catchy and memorable violin lead chorus, others have an almost Post Rock feel to them. Such could easily be said for Iris and Eye
. Beginning with a terrifying crescendo of rolling percussion, guitar, strings and screeching feedback, Iris and Eye kicks in with singer, Josh Benash singing “I forgot to drown you”
over a tight drum beat and a not-your-typical-punk-band guitar/piano combo. In the song’s last minute, everything kicks into overdrive, with a nothing short of spectacular orchestral build-up. All of this thrown together in three minutes and twenty five seconds makes for one hell of a second song.
The one-two punch of album ender Stay the Day
and second to last Vagabond
alone is reason to fall in love with Reality Vs. The Optimist. The latter begins relatively poppy but ends in a rather epic, rather beautiful chorus outro which sees Benash singing “I'm on my knees, tired and worn, just like a vagabond”
in a horribly pained voice over sonically appealing violin and guitar. The former is the “ballad” of the album, and is no less because of it. Housing the quivering strings, dark piano lines and soaring backing vocals I have become so familiar with, Stay the Day finishes off what could be my favorite up-and-coming band’s debut album. Better than the EP? Maybe not. Excellent all the same? Most definitely.